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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2006 Nov;14(11):1147-54. Epub 2006 Jun 30.

The cleavage of biglycan by aggrecanases.

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  • 1Shriners Hospital for Children, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



Aggrecanase-1 [a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs (ADAMTS)-4] and aggrecanase-2 (ADAMTS-5) have been named for their ability to degrade the proteoglycan aggrecan. While this may be the preferred substrate for these enzymes, they are also able to degrade other proteins. The aim of this work was to determine whether the aggrecanases could degrade biglycan and decorin.


Biglycan, decorin and aggrecan were purified from human and bovine cartilage and subjected to degradation by recombinant aggrecanase-1 or aggrecanase-2. In vitro degradation was assessed by sodium dodecyl sulfate/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS/PAGE) and immunoblotting, and the cleavage site in biglycan was determined by N-terminal amino acid sequencing. SDS/PAGE and immunoblotting were also used to assess in situ degradation in both normal and arthritic human articular cartilage.


Both aggrecanase-1 and aggrecanase-2 are able to cleave bovine and human biglycan at a site within their central leucine-rich repeat regions. Cleavage occurs at an asparagine-cysteine bond within the fifth leucine-rich repeat. In contrast, the closely related proteoglycan decorin is not a substrate for the aggrecanases. Analysis of human articular cartilage from osteoarthritic (OA) and rheumatoid arthritic (RA) joints showed that a biglycan degradation product of equivalent size is present in the extracellular matrix. No equivalent degradation product was, however, detectable in normal adult human articular cartilage.


Biglycan, which is structurally unrelated to aggrecan, can act as a substrate for aggrecanase-1 and aggrecanase-2, and these proteinases may account for at least part of the biglycan degradation that is present in arthritic cartilage.

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