Hypoxia-inducible factor 3-alpha expression is associated with the stable chondrocyte phenotype

Brandon D. Markway, Holly Cho, Jevgenia Zilberman-Rudenko, Paul Holden, Audrey McAlinden, Brian Johnstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The hypoxia-inducible factors HIF-1α and HIF-2α are important regulators of the chondrocyte phenotype but little is known about HIF-3α in cartilage. The objective of this study was to characterize HIF-3α (HIF3A) expression during chondrocyte differentiation in vitro and in native cartilage tissues. HIF3A, COL10A1, and MMP13 were quantified in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and articular chondrocytes from healthy and osteoarthritic (OA) tissue in three-dimensional cultures and in human embryonic epiphyses and adult articular cartilage. HIF3A was found to have an inverse association with hypertrophic markers COL10A1 and MMP13 in chondrogenic cells and tissues. In healthy chondrocytes, HIF3A was induced by dexamethasone and increased during redifferentiation. By comparison, HIF3A expression was extremely low in chondrogenically differentiated MSCs expressing high levels of COL10A1 and MMP13. HIF3A was also lower in redifferentiated OA chondrocytes than in healthy chondrocytes. In human embryonic epiphyseal tissue, HIF3A expression was lowest in the hypertrophic zone. Distinct splice patterns were also found in embryonic cartilage when compared with adult articular cartilage and redifferentiated chondrocytes. These in vitro and in vivo findings suggest that HIF3A levels are indicative of the hypertrophic state of chondrogenic cells and one or more splice variants may be important regulators of the chondrocyte phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1561-1570
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • cartilage
  • hypertrophy
  • hypoxia
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • osteoarthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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