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Dev Biol. 2001 Jan 1;229(1):203-14.

Uncoupling of chondrocyte death and vascular invasion in mouse galectin 3 null mutant bones.

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Institut Cochin de Génétique Moléculaire, INSERM 257, 24 rue du Faubourg Saint Jacques, Paris, 75014, France.


Galectin 3 is a beta-galactoside binding protein which localizes to the cytoplasm of proliferative, mature, and hypertrophic chondrocytes in the growth plate cartilage of developing long bones. To elucidate the function of galectin 3 during bone development, we examined the epiphyseal femurs and tibias of fetal mice carrying a null mutation for the galectin 3 gene. Detailed histological and ultrastructural studies identified abnormalities in the cells of the proliferative, mature, and hypertrophic zones and in the extracellular matrix of the hypertrophic zone, as well as a reduction in the total number of hypertrophic chondrocytes. The expression patterns of several chondrocyte and bone cell markers were analyzed and revealed a subtle modification of Ihh expression in the galectin 3 mutant growth plate. A striking difference was observed at the chondrovascular junction where many empty lacunae are present. In addition, large numbers of condensed chondrocytes exhibiting characteristic signs of cell death were found in the late hypertrophic zone, indicating that the rate of chondrocyte death is increased in the mutants. These results suggest a role for galectin 3 as a regulator of chondrocyte survival. In addition, this unique phenotype shows that the elimination of chondrocytes and vascular invasion can be uncoupled and indicates that galectin 3 may play a role in the coordination between chondrocyte death and metaphyseal vascularization.

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