The proteoglycans decorin and biglycan in extracts of human articular cartilage were analysed by SDS/PAGE and immunoblotting, using antisera raised to peptide sequences present in the pro-regions and the mature core proteins. In adult cartilage, both pro-forms and mature processed forms of the proteoglycan core protein were observed for both decorin and biglycan. In the case of biglycan, it was also shown that additional proteolytic processing takes place after removal of the propeptide and that this accounts for the presence of non-glycanated forms of the molecule. For both decorin and biglycan, the relative abundance of the pro-forms was much less in the juvenile than the adult. Different adult connective tissues, including meniscus, tendon and intervertebral disc were also examined for the presence of pro-forms of the proteoglycans. While the mature form of decorin was present at a similar level in extracts of all tissues examined, the pro-form was only detected in the articular cartilage. In the case of biglycan, the abundance of the mature form was more varied, with high levels in articular cartilage, intermediate levels in meniscus and the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc, low levels in the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral disc, and non-detectable levels in the patellar tendon. The pro-form of biglycan was detected in the disc tissue extracts, albeit at a lower level than in articular cartilage, but was not detected in the meniscus or tendon. The proportion of the pro-form relative to the mature form of biglycan was, however, higher in the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral disc than in articular cartilage. Thus, the persistence of pro-forms of both decorin and biglycan is a feature of the extracellular matrix of some connective tissues, although their abundance is both tissue-and age-dependent, with adult articular cartilage being a particularly rich source.

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