Mitochondrial Transport from Mesenchymal Stromal Cells to Chondrocytes Increases DNA Content and Proteoglycan Deposition In Vitro in 3D Cultures

Jasmijn V. Korpershoek*, Margot Rikkers, Fleur S.A. Wallis, Koen Dijkstra, Marije te Raa, Peter de Knijff, Daniel B.F. Saris, Lucienne A. Vonk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Allogeneic mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are used in the 1-stage treatment of articular cartilage defects. The aim of this study is to investigate whether transport of mitochondria exists between chondrocytes and MSCs and to investigate whether the transfer of mitochondria to chondrocytes contributes to the mechanism of action of MSCs. Design: Chondrocytes and MSCs were stained with MitoTracker, and CellTrace was used to distinguish between cell types. The uptake of fluorescent mitochondria was measured in cocultures using flow cytometry. Transport was visualized using fluorescence microscopy. Microvesicles were isolated and the presence of mitochondria was assessed. Mitochondria were isolated from MSCs and transferred to chondrocytes using MitoCeption. Pellets of chondrocytes, chondrocytes with transferred MSC mitochondria, and cocultures were cultured for 28 days. DNA content and proteoglycan content were measured. Mitochondrial DNA of cultured pellets and of repair cartilage tissue was quantified. Results: Mitochondrial transfer occurred bidirectionally within the first 4 hours until 16 hours of coculture. Transport took place via tunneling nanotubes, direct cell-cell contact, and extracellular vesicles. After 28 days of pellet culture, DNA content and proteoglycan deposition were higher in chondrocyte pellets to which MSC mitochondria were transferred than the control groups. No donor mitochondrial DNA was traceable in the biopsies, whereas an increase in MSC mitochondrial DNA was seen in the pellets. Conclusions: These results suggest that mitochondrial transport plays a role in the chondroinductive effect of MSCs on chondrocytes in vitro. However, in vivo no transferred mitochondria could be traced back after 1 year.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-147
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • articular cartilage
  • cartilage repair
  • cell communication
  • cells
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • mitochondria
  • repair
  • tissue


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