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Histochem Cell Biol. 2010 Sep;134(3):251-63. doi: 10.1007/s00418-010-0730-x. Epub 2010 Aug 6.

Comparative immunolocalisation of perlecan with collagen II and aggrecan in human foetal, newborn and adult ovine joint tissues demonstrates perlecan as an early developmental chondrogenic marker.

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Raymond Purves Laboratory, Institute of Bone and Joint Research, Kolling Institute of Medical Research, The Royal North Shore Hospital, Level 10, Kolling Building B6, St. Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia.


We undertook a comparative immunolocalisation study on type II collagen, aggrecan and perlecan in a number of 12- to 14-week-old human foetal and postnatal (7-19 months) ovine joints including finger, toe, knee, elbow, hip and shoulder. This demonstrated that perlecan followed a virtually identical immunolocalisation pattern to that of type II collagen in the foetal tissues, but a slightly divergent localisation pattern in adult tissues. Aggrecan was also localised in the cartilaginous joint tissues, which were clearly delineated by toluidine blue staining and the type II collagen immunolocalisations. It was also present in the capsular joint tissues and in ligaments and tendons in the joint, which stained poorly or not at all with toluidine blue. In higher power microscopic views, antibodies to perlecan also stained small blood vessels in the synovial lining tissues of the joint capsule; however, this was not discernable in low power macroscopic views where the immunolocalisation of perlecan to pericellular regions of cells within the cartilaginous rudiments was a predominant feature. Perlecan was also evident in small blood vessels in stromal connective tissues associated with the cartilage rudiments and with occasional nerves in the vicinity of the joint tissues. Perlecan was expressed by rounded cells in the enthesis attachment points of tendons to bone and in rounded cells in the inner third of the meniscus, which stained prominently with type II collagen and aggrecan identifying the chondrogenic background of these cells and local compressive loads. Flattened cells within the tendon and in the surface laminas of articular cartilages and the meniscus did not express perlecan. Collected evidence presented herein, therefore, indicates that besides being a basement membrane component, perlecan is also a marker of chondrogenic cells in prenatal cartilages. In postnatal cartilages, perlecan displayed a pericellular localisation pattern rather than the territorial or interterritorial localisation it displayed in foetal cartilages. This may reflect processing of extracellular perlecan presumably as a consequence of intrinsic biomechanical loading on these tissues or to divergent functions for perlecan and type II collagen in adult compared to prenatal tissues.

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