Cartilage regeneration is massive during tail regeneration in lizards but little is known about cartilage regeneration in other body regions of the skeleton. The recovery capability of injured epiphyses of femur and tibia of lizard knees has been studied by histology and 5BrdU immunohistochemistry in lizards kept at high environmental temperatures. Lizard epiphyses contain a secondary ossified center of variable extension surrounded peripherally by an articular cartilage and basally by columns of chondrocytes that form the mataphyseal or growth plate. After injury of the knee epiphyses, a broad degeneration of the articular cartilage during the first days post-injury is present. However a rapid regeneration of cartilaginous tissue is observed from 7 to 14 days post-injury and by 21 days post-lesions, a large part of the epiphyses are reformed by new cartilage. Labeling with 5BrdU indicates that the proliferating cells are derived from both the surface of the articular cartilage and from the metaphyseal plate, two chondrogenic regions that appear proliferating also in normal, uninjured knees. Chondroblasts proliferate by interstitial multiplication forming isogenous groups with only a scant extracellular matrix that later increases. The high regenerative power of lizard articular cartilage appears related to the permanence of growing cartilaginous centers in the epiphyses of long bones such as those of the knee during adulthood. It is likely that these regions contain resident stem cells that give rise to new chondroblasts of the articular and metaphyseal cartilage during most of the lizard’s lifetime, but can produce an excess of cartilaginous tissues when stimulated by the lesion.
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