Date of Award

Summer 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological Sciences

Committee Director

Christopher Osgood

Committee Member

Michael Stacey

Committee Member

Lesley Greene

Committee Member

Andrei Pakhomov

Committee Member

Jung He


Costal cartilage is a type of rod-like hyaline cartilage connecting the ribs to the sternum. The chest wall deformities pectus excavatum (PE) and pectus carinatum (PC) involve displacement of the sternum causing a depression or protrusion of the chest. There is little knowledge about costal cartilage and pectus deformities with much of its understanding based on assumptions from articular cartilage. Chondrocytes are subjected to a constantly changing environment with fluctuations in pH and osmolarity. Ion channels detect these changes and in turn regulate proliferation, differentiation, and extracellular matrix production. Using ion channel qPCR arrays, we produced expression profiles for normal, fetal, PE-affected, and PC-affected costal chondrocytes as well as articular chondrocytes. Costal and articular chondrocytes had many commonly expressed ion channels with certain channels specific to each cartilage type. The discrepancy in ion channel expression is likely to be a reflection of the functional differences between the two cartilage types. Additionally, fetal costal chondrocytes had several other distinct ion channels possibly due to the differentiation status of the cells. In PC and PE chondrocytes, ACCN1 (ASIC2) and KCNN2 (SK2) were consistently down-regulated compared to normal costal chondrocytes. However, Western blot analysis found deceases only in ASIC2 protein levels. ASIC2 is a proton-gated ion channel involved in cell response to extracellular pH changes. Calcium monitoring revealed a delay in the formation calcium transients in PC cells when challenged with low pH which may be caused by aberrant signaling from ASIC channels. Immunofluorescent analysis of connexins found that Cx43 was present in chondrocytes with phosphorylated Cx43 localizing in and around the nucleus. Analysis of ATP release found that release is likely a connexin-mediated process, though external acidosis did not induce ATP release. Analysis of microRNAs found upregulation and down-regulation of several microRNAs in PC versus control cells, though further studies are needed to identify a possible microRNA signature for pectus deformities. Overall, we have generated a comprehensive ion channel profile for the costal chondrocytes, as well as identified a possible contributing factor for pectus deformities.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).