The cartilage matrix deficiency (cmd/cmd) mouse fails to synthesize the core protein of cartilage-characteristic proteoglycan (cartilage PG). Chondrocytes from the cmd/cmd cartilage cultured in vitro produced nodules with greatly reduced extracellular matrix. Immunofluorescence staining revealed that the nodules of mutant cells differed from the normal in lacking cartilage PG and in uneven and reduced deposition of type II collagen. Exogenously added cartilage PG prepared from either normal mouse cartilage or Swarm rat chondrosarcoma to the culture medium was incorporated exclusively into the extracellular matrices of the nodules, with a concurrent correction of the abnormal distribution pattern of type II collagen. The incorporation of cartilage PG into the matrix was disturbed by hyaluronic acid or decasaccharide derived therefrom, suggesting that the incorporation process involves the interaction of added proteoglycan with hyaluronic acid. Both the hyaluronic acid-binding region and the protein-enriched core molecule prepared from rat chondrosarcoma cartilage PG could also be incorporated but, unlike the intact cartilage PG, they were distributed equally in the surrounding zones where fibroblast-like cells predominate. The results indicate that the intact form of cartilage PG is required for specific incorporation into the chondrocyte nodules, and further suggest that cartilage PG plays a regulatory role in the assembly of the matrix macromolecules.

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