Chondrocyte Markers




Chondrocytes are the only cells found in cartilage. They produce and maintain the cartilaginous matrix. From least- to terminally-differentiated, the chondrocytic lineage is:

  1. Colony-forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F)

  2. Mesenchymal stem cell / marrow stromal cell (MSC)

  3. Chondrocyte

  4. Hypertrophic chondrocyte




  • a reliable and sensitive marker of chondrocyte phenotype, and a useful marker to characterize chondrocyte differentiation stage. PMID: 11162592


Annexin VI

beta1 Integrin (CD29)

  • Chondrocytes have been shown to express beta1-containing integrins both in vitro and in situ. PMID: 10772239

  • Regulated expression of integrins by chondrocytes, associated with changes in the pericellular matrix composition, is of potential importance in control of cartilage differentiation and function in health and disease. PMID: 7897185

COMP (Cartilage oligomeric matrix protein)

  • a sensitive marker for the differentiation state of articular primary chondrocytes. PMID: 11485547

Cathepsin B

  • a marker of the dedifferentiated chondrocyte phenotype. PMID: 3415368

CD44, CD151, and CD49c

  • were expressed at significantly higher levels in chondrocytes with higher chondrogenic capacity. Flow cytometry analysis of clonal chondrocyte strains indicated that CD44 and CD151 could also identify more chondrogenic clones. PMID: 17265493

CEP-68 (Chondrocyte expressed protein-68)

CMP (cartilage matrix protein, Matrilin-1)

Collagen II

Collagen IX

  • a sensitive marker for the differentiation state of articular primary chondrocytes. PMID: 11485547

Collagen X


  • act as autocrine differentiation factors for this chondrocytic permanent cell line, HCS-2/8, mainly via respective receptors. PMID: 9322955

MIA (Melanoma Inhibitory Activity)

  • also referred to as cartilage derived retinoic acid-sensitive protein (CD-RAP), is detected physiologically in cartilage tissue and pathologically in malignant melanomas and can be used as a marker for differentiated chondrocytes. PMID: 12763450

MMP13 (matrix metalloproteinase-13)

Osteonectin (SPARC)

  • SPARC was identified in numerous chondrocytes in the superficial and middle zones and in regenerating chondrocytes of RA and OA joints, whereas such staining was absent in these zones of normal cartilage, except for weak signals from a few chondrocytes in the deep zone. PMID: 8630101

PCNA and p21

  • could be molecular markers that represent the status of these age-related properties of human articular chondrocytes in vitro. PMID: 15854215


  • chondrocytic marker. PMID: 11950957

  • a transcription factor that is required in successive steps of chondrogenesis. PMID: 15132997, PMID: 9569122

  • Sox9 is required during sequential steps of the chondrocyte differentiation pathway. PMID: 12414734

  • L-Sox5, Sox6, and Sox9 play essential roles in chondrocyte differentiation and, thereby, in cartilage formation. PMID: 11680692

  • a potent activator of the chondrocyte-specific enhancer of the pro alpha1(II) collagen gene. PMID: 9121483


  • a marker of early chondrocyte differentiation. PMID: 11696438

  • one of the major heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) normally expressed during chondrogenesis. PMID: 16226436

  • a cell-surface heparan sulfate proteoglycan important for chondrocyte proliferation and function during limb skeletogenesis. PMID: 15838620

  • a direct and selective regulator of the mitotic behavior of chondrocytes and its role may involve formation of dimeric/oligomeric structures on their cell surface. PMID: 12194984

YKL39 and YKL40

  • YKL-39 is a recently cloned secretory protein of articular chondrocytes, is arthritogenic in mice. PMID: 12102470

  • YKL-39 may be a more accurate marker of chondrocyte activation than YKL-40. YKL-39 and YKL-40 are potentially interesting marker molecules for arthritic joint disease because they are abundantly expressed by both normal and osteoarthritic chondrocytes. PMID: 12972480, PMID: 12435396

Other Chondrocyte Markers

  • Polyamine and differentiation: induction of ornithine decarboxylase by parathyroid hormone is a good marker of differentiated chondrocytes. PMID: 6929498