Schipani Lab

HIFs in cartilage regeneration


Our laboratory is investigating whether transient activation of the HIFs contributes to healing articular cartilage defects through the inhibition of hypertrophy

We established that continuous activation of hypoxia-driven pathways in mesenchymal progenitors of the limb bud delays hypertrophic differentiation of growth plate chondrocytes and causes ectopic chondrogenesis in the soft tissue surrounding the growth plate. We are currently testing the hypothesis that transient and local activation of the HIFs in vivo contributes to healing articular cartilage defects by both promoting chondrogenesis and inhibiting chondrocyte hypertrophy (R01AR075770, Dr. Schipani PI).

Loss of VHL in mesenchymal progenitors of the limb bud alters multiple steps of endochondral bone development
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Adaptation to low oxygen tension (hypoxia) is a critical event during development. The transcription factors Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1α (HIF-1α) and HIF-2α are essential mediators of the homeostatic responses that allow hypoxic cells to survive and differentiate. Von Hippel-Lindau protein (VHL) is the E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets HIFs to the proteasome for degradation in normoxia. We have previously demonstrated that the transcription factor HIF-1α is essential for survival and differentiation of growth plate chondrocytes, whereas HIF-2α is not necessary for fetal growth plate development. We have also shown that VHL is important for endochondral bone development, since loss of VHL in chondrocytes causes severe dwarfism. In this study, in order to expand our understanding of the role of VHL in chondrogenesis, we conditionally deleted VHL in mesenchymal progenitors of the limb bud, i.e. in cells not yet committed to the chondrocyte lineage. Deficiency of VHL in limb bud mesenchyme does not alter the timely differentiation of mesenchymal cells into chondrocytes. However, it causes structural collapse of the cartilaginous growth plate as a result of impaired proliferation, delayed terminal differentiation, and ectopic death of chondrocytes. This phenotype is associated to delayed replacement of cartilage by bone. Notably, loss of HIF-2α fully rescues the late formation of the bone marrow cavity in VHL mutant mice, though it does not affect any other detectable abnormality of the VHL mutant growth plates. Our findings demonstrate that VHL regulates bone morphogenesis as its loss considerably alters size, shape and overall development of the skeletal elements.

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