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EXS. 1994;70:215-42.

Cytokines and proteoglycans.

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University Hospital, Department of Rheumatology, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Cytokines play an important regulatory role in the metabolism of proteoglycans. Proteoglycans are found in plasma membranes, but predominantly in the extra-cellular matrix. In the latter they are quantitatively and qualitatively essential components. Especially in a tissue like cartilage without any blood vessels, the cells are dependent on cytokines for the communication among themselves in the extra-cellular matrix and also for communication with the 'outside world'. Various cytokines have been found to be able to penetrate the extra-cellular matrix and inhibit, respectively stimulate the proteoglycan synthesis. Also, the degradation of proteoglycans can be stimulated, respectively inhibited by several cytokines. In addition, some cytokines have been found which regulate the effects of the other cytokines. With respect to proteoglycan metabolism a complex cytokine network is emerging. Furthermore it is becoming increasingly clear that proteoglycans are connected to the cytokine network by their own bioactive functions. First, they possibly possess cytokine activities themselves. Second, they can function as receptors, protectors, inactivators and storage ligands for cytokines. So the proteoglycans are clearly involved in the feedback signalling from the extra-cellular matrix to the cells that are synthesizing this extra-cellular matrix. Together with agonistic or antagonistic cytokines they are involved in the regulation of proteoglycan turnover during balanced or unbalanced metabolism in normal, respectively pathological situations.

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