The structure of the proteoglycans from normal pig nucleus pulposus and relatively normal human annulus fibrosus and nucleus pulposus was investigated in detail and the results were compared with the current structural model of proteoglycans of hyaline cartilage. Like proteoglycans of cartilage, those of intervertebral disc contain keratan sulphate and chondroitin sulphate attached to a protein core; they are able to aggregate to hyaluronic acid; the protein core likewise has three regions, one lacking glycosaminoglycans, another rich in keratan sulphate and a third region rich in chondroitin sulphate. However, disc proteoglycans contain more keratan sulphate and protein and less chondroitin sulphate and are also considerably smaller than cartilage proteoglycans. In proteoglycans of human discs, these differences appeared to be due principally to a shorter region of the core protein bearing the chondroitin sulphate chains, whereas in proteoglycans of pig discs their smaller size and relatively low uronic acid content were due to shorter chondroitin sulphate chains. There were subtle differences between proteoglycans from the nucleus and annulus of human discs. In the latter a higher proportion of proteoglycans was capable of binding to hyaluronate.
- © 1979 London: The Biochemical Society