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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2007 Nov;15(11):1311-7. Epub 2007 Jun 4.

A molecular and histological characterization of cartilage from patients with Morquio syndrome.

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Laboratorio di Immunologia e Genetica, Istituto di Ricerca Codivilla Putti, Istituti Ortopedici Rizzoli, Via di Barbiano 1/10, 40136 Bologna, Italy.



To investigate the gene expression profile and the histological aspects of articular cartilage of patients affected by Morquio syndrome, a lysosomal storage disease characterized by the accumulation of glycosaminoglycans within the cells which result in abnormal formation and growth of the skeletal system.


Articular cartilage samples were obtained from the femoral condyle of two siblings with Morquio syndrome during surgery performed to treat valgus knee. As controls, four biopsy samples of healthy cartilage were obtained from four different male multiorgan donors. A Real-Time Polymerase Chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis was performed to evaluate the expression of type I and II collagens and aggrecan mRNAs. Histological and immunohistochemical analyses for some matrix proteins were carried out on paraffin embedded sections.


Type I collagen mRNA mean level was higher in the samples of patients with Morquio syndrome compared to controls. Type II collagen and aggrecan mRNAs' mean expression was instead lower. The morphological appearance of the cartilage showed a poorly organized tissue structure with not homogeneously distributed cells that were larger compared to normal chondrocytes due to the presence inside the vacuoles of proteoglycans which were not metabolized. Chondrocytes were negative for collagen II immunostaining while the extracellular matrix was weakly positive. Collagen type I immunostaining was positive at cellular level. Keratan sulfate showed diffuse positivity and chondroitin-6-sulfate was present throughout the cartilaginous thickness.


In cartilage of patients with Morquio syndrome, a low expression of collagen type II and a high expression of collagen type I both at protein and molecular levels are evidentiated. This finding could give evidence of the reduction in ankle and knee joint movement observable in these patients.

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