Hyaluronan is essential for the expansion of the cranial base growth plates

P. T. Gakunga, Y. Kuboki, L. A. Opperman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Exquisite control of chondrocyte function in the zone of hypertrophy results in expansive growth of cartilaginous growth plates, and is a prerequisite for normal skeletal lengthening. We hypothesize that hyaluronan-mediated hydrostatic pressure causes lacunae expansion in the zone of hypertrophy; an important mechanism in cartilaginous growth plate and associated skeletal expansion. The role of hyaluronan and CD44 in this mechanism was studied using organ culture of the bipolar cranial base synchondroses. Hyaluronan was present in the hypertrophic zones, pericellular to the hypertrophic chondrocytes, while no hyaluronan was detected in the resting, proliferating and maturing zones. This localization of hyaluronan was associated with increased lacunae size, suggesting that chondrocytes deposit and retain pericellular hyaluronan as they mature. In comparison, Toluidine Blue staining was associated with the territorial matrix. Hyaluronidase, the hyaluronan-degrading enzyme, and CD44, the receptor for hyaluronan which also participates in the uptake and degradation of hyaluronan, were co-localized within the zone of ossification. This pattern of expression suggests that cells in the early zone of ossification internalize and degrade hyaluronan through a CD44-mediated mechanism. Treatment of the cultured segments with either Streptomyces hyaluronidase or hyaluronan hexasaccharides inhibited lacunae expansion. These observations demonstrate that hyaluronan-mediated mechanisms play an important role in controlling normal skeletal lengthening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Craniofacial Genetics and Developmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


  • Chondrocyte hypertrophy
  • Cranial base synchondrosis
  • Craniofacial growth and development
  • Hyaluronan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


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