Mechanisms of synovial joint and articular cartilage development

  • Ryota Chijimatsu
  • Taku SaitoEmail author


Articular cartilage is formed at the end of epiphyses in the synovial joint cavity and permanently contributes to the smooth movement of synovial joints. Most skeletal elements develop from transient cartilage by a biological process known as endochondral ossification. Accumulating evidence indicates that articular and growth plate cartilage are derived from different cell sources and that different molecules and signaling pathways regulate these two kinds of cartilage. As the first sign of joint development, the interzone emerges at the presumptive joint site within a pre-cartilage tissue. After that, joint cavitation occurs in the center of the interzone, and the cells in the interzone and its surroundings gradually form articular cartilage and the synovial joint. During joint development, the interzone cells continuously migrate out to the epiphyseal cartilage and the surrounding cells influx into the joint region. These complicated phenomena are regulated by various molecules and signaling pathways, including GDF5, Wnt, IHH, PTHrP, BMP, TGF-β, and FGF. Here, we summarize current literature and discuss the molecular mechanisms underlying joint formation and articular development.


Articular cartilage Joint Interzone Chondrocyte 



Bone morphogenic protein


Cartilage-derived morphogenetic protein 1


Conditional knockout


Fibroblast growth factor


Fibroblast growth factor receptor 3




Growth differentiation factor 5


Indian hedgehog


Mitogen-activated protein kinase


Notch intracellular domain


Parathyroid hormone-related protein


Progeoglycan 4


Superficial zone


Transforming growth factor-β


TGF-β type II receptor


Uridine diphosphoglucose dehydrogenase



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bone and Cartilage Regenerative Medicine, Graduate School of MedicineThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Sensory and Motor System Medicine, Graduate School of MedicineThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan

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