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Cartilage-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been isolated with different methods. In this study lateral and medial femoral condyles were respectively collected from patients with late-stage osteoarthritis during the total knee arthroplasty. After digestion of the cartilage tissues with type II collagenase and analysis by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) with CD146, a chondroprogenitor cell sub-population were isolated and purified. The expression of other MSC-associated markers in the CD146+ chondroprogenitors was analyzed by flow cytometry. Multi-lineage differentiation capacity of CD146+ chondroprogenitors was compared with that of unsorted chondrocytes and adipose-derived MSCs (ADMSCs). Higher percentage of CD146+ chondroprogenitors isolated from the medial femoral condyles was observed than that from the lateral. CD146+ chondroprogenitors expressed high levels of MSC-specific surface antigens, and showed higher chondrogenesis capacity than ADMSCs and unsorted chondrocytes in a 3D cell pellet culture model. Thus CD146 might be a new cell surface marker for cartilage progenitor cell population in the late-stage osteoarthritis. © 2014 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 33:84–91, 2015.