Circadian Clocks in Articular Cartilage and Bone: A Compass in the Sea of Matrices

Nan Yang, Qing-Jun Meng

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Temporally coordinated resorption and synthesis is the key to maintaining healthy bones. Articular cartilage is a highly specialized connective tissue within the joints that lines the surface of a long bone. Emerging evidence has suggested a critical role of the circadian system in controlling cartilage and bone biology. Articular cartilage is sparsely populated with chondrocytes, surrounded by abundant extracellular matrices that are synthesized and maintained solely by chondrocytes. Once damaged, the articular cartilage tissue has poor capacity for endogenous repair, leaving the joints prone to osteoarthritis, an age-related painful condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide. An important question is how articular cartilage has evolved its remarkable capacity to maintain homeostasis and withstand daily biomechanical challenges associated with resting/activity cycles. Equally important is how this avascular and aneural tissue senses time and uses this information to coordinate daily phases of metabolic activity and tissue remodeling/repair. Bone tissue derived from cartilage has similarly sparse populations of resident cells living in dense and largely mineralized matrices. We discuss recent progress on circadian clocks in these matrix-rich skeletal tissues and highlight avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-427
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number5
Early online date23 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Journal Article
  • Review


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