• synovial joint;
  • knee;
  • elbow;
  • TGFβ


Background: Synovial joints develop from the interzone, a dense layer of mesenchymal progenitor cells that marks the site of the future joint. During the morphogenic events that follow, joints attain their distinct shape and organization. The molecular mechanisms controlling the initial specification of synovial joints has been studied, but the question of how individual joints attain the specific structure required for their unique functions remains largely unresolved. Here, we use microarray analysis to compare knee and elbow formation to identify factors involved in the development of specific joints. Results: The knee is enriched for the hindlimb patterning genes Hoxc9, Hoxc10, and Tbx4 and for Tgfbi, Rspo2, and Sfrp2, factors involved in transforming growth factor-beta/bone morphogenetic protein (TGFβ/BMP) and Wnt signaling. Consistent with these findings, we show that TGFβ signaling directs knee morphogenesis, and is necessary for meniscus development. The tissue surrounding the elbow is highly enriched for genes involved in muscle specification and differentiation, and in splotch-delayed muscleless mutants, elbow, but not knee morphogenesis is disrupted. Conclusions: Our results suggest there are fundamental differences in how individual joints develop after interzone formation. Our microarray analyses provides a new resource for further investigation of the pathways involved in the morphogenesis of specific synovial joints. Developmental Dynamics 241:1816–1826, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.