The expansion of autologous chondrocytes in vitro is used to generate sufficient populations for cell-based therapies. However, during monolayer culture, chondrocytes lose inherent characteristics and shift to fibroblast-like cells as passage number increase. Here, we investigated passage-dependent changes in cellular physiology, including cellular morphology, motility, and gene and protein expression, as well as the role of focal adhesion and cytoskeletal regulation in the dedifferentiation process. We found that the gene and protein expression levels of both the focal adhesion complex and small Rho GTPases are upregulated with increasing passage number and are closely linked to chondrocyte dedifferentiation. The inhibition of focal adhesion kinase (FAK) but not small Rho GTPases induced the loss of fibroblastic traits and the recovery of collagen type II, aggrecan, and SOX9 expression levels in dedifferentiated chondrocytes. Based on these findings, we propose a strategy to suppress chondrogenic dedifferentiation by inhibiting the identified FAK or Src pathways while maintaining the expansion capability of chondrocytes in a 2D environment. These results highlight a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of skeletal diseases and the generation of cartilage in tissue-engineering approaches. J. Cell. Physiol. 231: 1822-1831, 2016. (c) 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.