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J Clin Invest. 1996 Feb 1;97(3):621-32.

Immunity to the G1 globular domain of the cartilage proteoglycan aggrecan can induce inflammatory erosive polyarthritis and spondylitis in BALB/c mice but immunity to G1 is inhibited by covalently bound keratan sulfate in vitro and in vivo.

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Joint Diseases Laboratory, Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Earlier work from this laboratory showed that the human proteoglycan aggrecan from fetal cartilages can induce a CD4+ T cell-dependent inflammatory polyarthritis in BALB/c mice when injected after removal of chondroitin sulfate chains. Adult keratan sulfate (KS)-rich aggrecan does not possess this property. We found that two CD4+ T cell hybridomas (TH5 and TH14) isolated from arthritic mice recognize bovine calf aggrecan and the purified G1 domain of this molecule, which also contains a portion of the interglobular domain to which KS is bound. These hybridoma responses to G1 are enhanced by partial removal of KS by the endoglycosidase keratanase or by cyanogen bromide cleavage of core protein. KS removal results in increased cellular uptake by antigen-present cells in vitro. After removal of KS by keratanase, G1 alone can induce a severe erosive polyarthritis and spondylitis in BALB/c mice identifying it as an arthritogenic domain of aggrecan. The presence of KS prevents induction of arthritis presumably as a result of an impaired immune response as observed in vitro. These observations not only identify the arthritogenic properties of G1 but they also point to the importance of glycosylation and proteolysis in determining the arthritogenicity of aggrecan and fragments thereof.

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