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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2006 Jan;38(1):123-33. Epub 2005 Sep 8.

Hyaluronan fragments activate nitric oxide synthase and the production of nitric oxide by articular chondrocytes.

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Department of Biochemistry, Rush University Medical Center, 1653 West Congress Parkway, Cohn 516, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Chondrocyte CD44 receptors anchor hyaluronan to the cell surface, enabling the assembly and retention of proteoglycan aggregates in the pericellular matrix. Hyaluronan-CD44 interactions also provide signaling important for maintaining cartilage homeostasis. Disruption of chondrocyte-hyaluronan contact alters CD44 occupancy, initiating alternative signaling cascades. Treatment with hyaluronan oligosaccharides is one approach to uncouple CD44 receptors from its native ligand, hyaluronan. In bovine articular chondrocytes, treatment with hyaluronan oligosaccharides or purified hyaluronan hexasaccharides induced the production of nitric oxide that mirrored nitric oxide production following interleukin-1 treatment. In contrast, 120 and 1,260 kDa hyaluronan did not induce production of nitric oxide. Human chondrocytes responded similarly to treatment with hyaluronan or hyaluronan oligosaccharides. Nitric oxide production from chondrocytes was mediated by activation of the inducible nitric oxide synthase, as confirmed by mRNA expression and inhibition of nitric oxide production by diphenyleneiodonium. Co-treatment of chondrocytes with hyaluronan oligosaccharides and interleukin-1 did not demonstrate additive effects. Blocking interleukin-1 receptors with an antagonist did not abolish the production of nitric oxide induced by treatment with hyaluronan oligosaccharides. Moreover, only COS-7 following transfection with a pCD44, not the CD44-null parental cells, responded to treatment with hyaluronan oligosaccharides by releasing nitric oxide. This study demonstrates a novel signaling potential by hyaluronan fragments, in lieu of endogenous hyaluronan-chondrocyte interactions, resulting in the activation of inducible nitric oxide synthase.

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