A number of different types of glycoconjugate are found associated with joint tissue and fluids, comprising glycoproteins, glycolipids and glycosaminoglycans. Oligosaccharide chains of glycoconjugates are degraded by exoglycosidases, and the dominant exoglycosidase found in human blood, synovial fluid, the synovial membrane and chondrocytes of articular cartilage is HEX (N-acetyl-β-hexosaminidase). HEX is localized mostly intracellularly in synovial cells. Serum activity of HEX may be used to monitor the course and efficiency of treatment of Lyme arthritis, and activity of HEX, above 10 μkat/kg of protein in the synovial fluid, suggests rheumatoid disease. There is a shortage of HEX inhibitors able to penetrate synoviocytes, so the development of drugs which inhibit synthesis and/or the activity of HEX will be a promising field for future investigations.

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