Native and recombinant neutrophil collagenase (MMP-8) was shown to cleave at the E373-A374 ‘aggrecanase’ site in the interglobular domain of aggrecan. The time course of digestion in vitro showed that MMP-8 cleaved initially at N341-F342, the predominant metalloproteinase site, before cleaving at the E373-A374 site. A synthetic peptide, IPENFFG, inhibited cleavage at E373-A374 but not N341-F342 in vitro, indicating that the E373-A374 sequence was a less preferred site for MMP-8 cleavage than N341-F342. IPENFFG also inhibited release of A374 RGSVI fragments from cartilage in explant culture, suggesting that a metalloproteinase cleaved at the aggrecanase site in situ. The possibility remains that ‘aggrecanase’ may be a metalloproteinase in cartilage.

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