Loss of ATRX in Chondrocytes Has Minimal Effects on Skeletal Development
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BACKGROUND: Mutations in the human ATRX gene cause developmental defects, including skeletal deformities and dwarfism. ATRX encodes a chromatin remodeling protein, however the role of ATRX in skeletal development is currently unknown. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We induced Atrx deletion in mouse cartilage using the Cre-loxP system, with Cre expression driven by the collagen II (Col2a1) promoter. Growth rate, body size and weight, and long bone length did not differ in Atrx(Col2cre) mice compared to control littermates. Histological analyses of the growth plate did not reveal any differences between control and mutant mice. Expression patterns of Sox9, a transcription factor required for cartilage morphogenesis, and p57, a marker of cell cycle arrest and hypertrophic chondrocyte differentiation, was unaffected. However, loss of ATRX in cartilage led to a delay in the ossification of the hips in some mice. We also observed hindlimb polydactily in one out of 61 mutants. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These findings indicate that ATRX is not directly required for development or growth of cartilage in the mouse, suggesting that the short stature in ATR-X patients is caused by defects in cartilage-extrinsic mechanisms.