The heterogeneity of the components of proteoglycan aggregates, their stoichiometry within the aggregate and the aggregates’ stability was investigated in normal human articular cartilage specimens (age-range newborn to 63 years). Proteoglycans were extracted from tissue by sequentially extracting them with PBS alone, PBS containing oligosaccharides of hyaluronan, and PBS containing solutions of increasing guanidinium chloride concentration (1M, 2M, 3M and 4M). A high proportion of each of the components of the proteoglycan aggregate, i.e. uronic acid, sulphated glycosaminoglycan, hyaluronan binding domain of aggrecan (G1-domain), link protein (LP) and hyaluronan, was extracted from immature cartilage by PBS alone and PBS containing oligosaccharides of hyaluronan. This was in marked contrast to adult cartilage, which required high concentrations of guanidinium chloride for the efficient extraction of these components. The molar ratios of total G1-domain:LP and the G1-domain associated with aggrecan:LP also differed markedly between immature and mature cartilage and between each of the sequential extracts. The concentration of LP was less than that of the G1-domain in all extracts of cartilage from individuals over 13 years, but this was particularly noticeable in the 1M guanidinium chloride extracts, and it was surmised that a deficiency in LP produces unstable aggregates in situ. The fragmentation of LP, which is known to occur with advancing age, did not influence the extractability of LP, and fragments were present in each of the sequential extracts. Therefore the generally accepted model of proteoglycan aggregation presented in the literature, which is mostly derived from analysis of immature animal cartilage, cannot be used to describe the structure and organization of aggregates in adult human articular cartilage, where a heterogeneous population of complexes exist that have varying degrees of stability.
- link protein
Abbreviations used: CRP, complement regulatory proteins; G1-domain, hyaluronan binding domain of aggrecan; GnHCl, guanidinium chloride; HA, hyaluronan; KS, keratan sulphate; LP, link protein; s-gag, sulphated glycosaminoglycan; UA, uronic acid.
- The Biochemical Society, London ©2003