The genomic structure of murine fibromodulin was determined, and its age-related expression and distribution were characterized in knee epiphyses, with decorin studied for reference. Fibromodulin, as well as decorin, have roles in collagen fibrillogenesis both in vitro and in vivo. The murine fibromodulin gene, Fmod, was similar with that in other species, with three exons and 86% of the translated sequence in exon 2. The 2.7kb long cDNA contains an open reading frame of 1131nt. Fibromodulin mRNA levels were highest in tissues rich in fibrillar collagens type I or type II. During growth, the distribution of fibromodulin mRNA was similar with that of type II collagen, with the highest levels between 5 days and 1 month of age. Thereafter, the expression of type II collagen declined to a level near the detection limit, whereas the fibromodulin expression decreased less markedly to a level of approx. 35% of maximum, and remained constant throughout the rest of the observation period. In contrast, decorin mRNA levels were the highest in old animals. Pericellular deposition of fibromodulin was strong around the late-hypertrophic chondrocytes of the secondary ossification centre and in the growth plate. In young epiphyses, both fibromodulin and decorin were found interterritorially, mainly in the uncalcified and deep-calcified cartilage. In the old mice, calcified cartilage became enriched with regard to fibromodulin, while, in contrast, decorin deposition diminished, particularly near the tidemark. In the subchondral bone trabeculae, decorin was found in the endosteum of growing, but not in the mature, epiphyses. Differences in the expression and distribution profiles suggest different roles for fibromodulin and decorin in the regulation of collagen fibrillogenesis, maintenance of the fibril organization and matrix mineralization. As fibromodulin is deposited closer to cells than decorin, it may have a primary role in collagen fibrillogenesis, whereas decorin might be involved in the maintenance of fibril structures in the interterritorial matrix.

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Author notes

2

Present address: Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Royal Victoria Hospital, McGill University, 687 Pine Avenue West, RM, L4.60, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1A1, Canada.

3

The nucleotide sequence data reported will appear in DDBJ, EMBL, GenBank® and GSDB Nucleotide Sequence Databases under the accession numbers Y11757 for pMDcn-1 (partial murine decorin cDNA) and X94998 for pMFmn-1 (complete murine fibromodulin cDNA and partial genomic structure).