Yes-associated protein (YAP) is a negative regulator of chondrogenesis in mesenchymal stem cells

Alexandra Karystinou, Anke Jozefien Roelofs, Anna Neve, Francesco P Cantatore, Henning Wackerhage, Cosimo De Bari

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The control of differentiation of mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs) is crucial for tissue engineering strategies employing MSCs. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the transcriptional co-factor Yes-associated protein (YAP) regulates chondrogenic differentiation of MSCs.

Expression of total YAP, its paralogue transcriptional co-activator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ), and individual YAP transcript variants during in vitro chondrogenesis of human MSCs was determined by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). YAP expression was confirmed by western blotting. To determine the effect of high YAP activity on chondrogenesis, C3H10T1/2 MSC-like cells were transduced with human (h)YAP and treated in micromass with bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2). Chondrogenic differentiation was assessed by alcian blue staining and expression of chondrocyte-lineage genes. BMP signalling was determined by detection of pSmad1,5,8 by western blotting and expression of BMP target genes by quantitative RT-PCR. Finally, YAP and pYAP were detected in mouse embryo hindlimbs by immunohistochemistry.

YAP, but not TAZ, was downregulated during in vitro chondrogenesis of human MSCs. One of the YAP transcript variants, however, was upregulated in high-density micromass culture. Overexpression of hYAP in murine C3H10T1/2 MSCs inhibited chondrogenic differentiation. High YAP activity in these cells decreased Smad1,5,8 phosphorylation and expression of the BMP target genes Inhibitor of DNA binding/differentiation (Id)1, Id2 and Id3 in response to BMP-2. In developing mouse limbs, Yap was nuclear in the perichondrium while mostly phosphorylated and cytosolic in cells of the cartilage anlage, suggesting downregulation of Yap co-transcriptional activity during physiological chondrogenesis in vivo.

Our findings indicate that YAP is a negative regulator of chondrogenic differentiation of MSCs. Downregulation of YAP is required for chondrogenesis through derepression of chondrogenic signalling. Therapeutic targeting of YAP to promote cartilage repair and prevent secondary osteoarthritis is an exciting prospect in rheumatology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147
Number of pages14
JournalArthritis Research & Therapy
Early online date30 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2015

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

The authors would like to thank Dr Marius Sudol for the hYAP plasmids (obtained through Addgene), Dr Pete Zammit for the pMSCV-IRES-eGFP plasmid, Dr Robert Judson for subcloning the hYAP cDNAs into the pMSCV-IRES-eGFP plasmid, Dr Lynda Erskine for the provision of mouse embryo samples, and Professor Jimmy Hutchison and the Orthopaedics Department at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for the provision of human tissue samples. The authors are also grateful to Denise Tosh and Susan Clark for excellent technical support. This work was funded by Arthritis Research UK (grant 19429).


  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • YAP
  • TAZ
  • chondrogenesis
  • transforming growth factor beta
  • bone morphogenetic proteins
  • Smad signalling
  • cartilage repair
  • osteparthritis


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