Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Connective Tissue Research










Costal cartilage is much understudied compared with the load-bearing cartilages. Abnormally grown costal cartilages are associated with the inherited chest wall deformities pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum resulting in sunken and pigeon chests, respectively. A lack of understanding of the ultrastructural and molecular biology of costal cartilage is a major confounder in predicting causes and outcomes of these disorders. This study analyzed the structure of marginal human costal cartilage (ribs 6-10) through scanning electron and atomic force microscopes and identified the presence of straw-like structures running longitudinally. We also demonstrated that chondrocytes tend to occur singly or as doublets and that centrally located cells produce high levels of aggrecan compared with more peripherally located cells measured using immunohistochemistry. Gene expression from mRNA extracted from cartilage showed high levels of decorin expression, likely associated with the large, complex tubular structures running through this cartilage type. COL2A1, ACAN, and TIMP1 also showed higher levels of expression compared with ACTB. Analysis of gene expression ratios demonstrate that costal cartilage is under differentiated compared with published ratios for articular cartilage, likely due to the vastly different biomechanical environments of each cartilage type. Further studies need to establish whether findings described here from the costal margins are significantly different than the cartilage of the "true ribs" and how these values change with age.


NOTE: This is the final author’s version of a work that was published in Connective Tissue Research. The final version was published as:

Stacey, M.W., Grubbs, J., Asmar, A., Pryor, J., Elsayed-Ali, H., Cao, W., . . . Kelly, R.E., Jr. (2012). Decorin expression, straw-like structure, and differentiation of human costal cartilage. Connective Tissue Research, 53(5), 415-421. doi: 10.3109/03008207.2012.684113

The final publication is available at: 10.3109/03008207.2012.684113