Development of synovial joints

C W Archer, G P Dowthwaite, P Francis-West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Citations (Scopus)


Synovial joints arise through two main processes. In long bone elements, cartilaginous differentiation occurs across the locations of the prospective joints that then segment secondarily. This process occurs through the development of a noncartilaginous region known as the interzone. The interzone becomes an important signaling center to the opposing elements, which can regulate growth through such factors as GDF-5. The interzone also expresses bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and their antagonists, such as noggin. Overexpression of BMPs, or the loss of noggin leads to joint fusions. The interzone also expresses Wnt-14, which appears to be specific for this region in the developing anlagen, and regulates its nonchondrogenic nature. Cavitation of the joint follows, driven by selective high-level synthesis of hyaluronan by interzone cells and presumptive synovial cells. In addition, as the interzone disperses during cavity enlargement, data are now accruing that suggest that both the synovium and articular cartilage develop from this population. Finally, the development of articular cartilage progresses through appositional growth driven by a progenitor/stem cell subpopulation that resides in the articular surface. The individual elements of the skeleton are connected together at regions termed joints or articulations. Classically, there are three broad categories of joints: immovable joints (syntharthroses); mixed articulations, in which the range of movement is limited (amphiarthroses); and the movable, or synovial, joints (diarthroses). This review concentrates on the development of the synovial joints.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144 - 155
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2003


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