ScxLin cells directly form a subset of chondrocytes in temporomandibular joint that are sharply increased in Dmp1-null mice.
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It has been assumed that the secondary cartilage in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is the most complex and mystery joint and expands rapidly after birth, is formed by periochondrium-derived chondrocytes. The TMJ condyle has rich attachment sites of tendon, which is thought to be solely responsible for joint movement with a distinct cell lineage. Here, we used a Scx-Cre ERT2 mouse line (the tracing line for progenitor and mature tendon cells) to track the fate of tendon cells during TMJ postnatal growth. Our data showed a progressive differentiation of Scx lineage cells started at tendon and the fibrous layer, to cells at the prechondroblasts (Sox9 -/Col I +), and then to cells at the chondrocytic layer (Sox9 +/Col I -). Importantly, the Scx+chondrocytes remained as "permanent" chondrocytes to maintain cartilage mass with no further cell trandifferentiation to bone cells. This notion was substantiated in an assessment of these cells in Dmp1 -null mice (a hypophosphatemic rickets model), where there was a significant increase in the number of Scx lineage cells in response to hypophosphatemia. In addition, we showed the origin of disc, which is derived from Scx+cells. Thus, we propose Scx lineage cells play an important role in TMJ postnatal growth by forming the disc and a new subset of Scx+chondrocytes that do not undergo osteogenesis as the Scx - chondrocytes and are sensitive to the level of phosphorous.