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Anat Rec. 1984 Feb;208(2):149-58.

Ultrastructural cytochemistry of proteoglycans associated with calcification of shark cartilage.


Proteoglycans (PGs) as well as sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are closely associated with cartilage calcification. An inner zone of endoskeletal tesserae of sharks is composed of a unique calcified hyaline cartilage. Initial calcification can be seen in the cartilage close to the inner zone. We have ultrastructurally examined shark, Triakis scyllia, noncalcifying, calcifying, and calcified cartilage using the tannic acid-ferric chloride (TA-Fe), the high iron diamine (HID), and the HID-thiocarbohydrazide-silver proteinate (HID-TCH-SP) methods for localization of sulfated complex carbohydrates. In noncalcifying cartilage, TA-Fe and HID strongly stained matrix granules which were round, ovoid, elongated, or irregularly shaped and presumably represented PG monomers. The size and staining intensity of the reactive matrix granules progressively decreased in calcifying cartilage toward the calcification front of the calcified cartilage. Similarly, a progressive decrease in the size of the HID-TCH-SP stain deposits in the matrix granules was observed in the calcifying cartilage close to the calcification front and was interpreted as a decrease in length of sulfate containing GAG chains. In the calcified cartilage, the highly calcified areas were often localized in the calcification front and contained few or no small HID-TCH-SP stain deposits, whereas the weakly calcified regions contained more stain deposits. These results indicate that partial and complete degradation of sulfated GAGs and/or PGs may be a requisite for calcification of shark cartilage.

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