IGF-I acts as a local proliferation and maturation factor for chondrocytes in the growth plate. However, the expression of different alternative IGF-I mRNA classes in the growth plate has not been characterized. Using quantitative reverse transcription PCR, the abundance of each alternative IGF-I mRNA class in resting, proliferative and hypertrophic chondrocytes was measured in rat costochondral growth plates. Class 1Ea mRNA was the most abundant IGF-I transcript overall and was highly expressed in proliferative chondrocytes at 2 and 4 weeks of age; by 6 weeks, the majority of 1Ea mRNA expression had shifted to hypertrophic chondrocytes. Class 1Eb mRNA was the second most abundant transcript and its distribution was uniform across all the cell types at 2 weeks of age. The expression pattern changed with increasing age such that at 6 weeks a gradient existed with hypertrophic chondrocytes expressing higher levels of 1Eb than resting chondrocytes. Class 2Ea mRNA was constitutively expressed at low levels across the growth plate at all ages, while class 2Eb mRNA expression was negligible. The distribution of total IGF-I mRNA also shifted across growth plate cell types as the animals aged from 2 to 6 weeks. These findings suggest that IGF-I class 1 mRNA plays the predominant role in the maturation of the growth plate.
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