Author(s): Young MF, Bi Y, Ameye L, Chen XD
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Abstract Biglycan is a Class I Small Leucine Rich Proteoglycans (SLRP) that is localized on human chromosome Xq28-ter. The conserved nature of its intron-exon structure and protein coding sequence compared to decorin (another Class I SLRP) indicates the two genes may have arisen from gene duplication. Biglycan contains two chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chains attached near its NH(2) terminus making it different from decorin that has only one GAG chain. To determine the functions of biglycan in vivo, transgenic mice were developed that were deficient in the production of the protein (knockout). These mice acquire diminished bone mass progressively with age. Double tetracycline-calcein labeling revealed that the biglycan deficient mice are defective in their capacity to form bone. Based on this observation, we tested the hypothesis that the osteoporosis-like phenotype is due to defects in cells critical to the process of bone formation. Our data shows that biglycan deficient mice have diminished capacity to produce marrow stromal cells, the bone cell precursors, and that this deficiency increases with age. The cells also have reduced response to tranforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), reduced collagen synthesis and relatively more apoptosis than cells from normal littermates. In addition, calvaria cells isolated from biglycan deficient mice have reduced expression of late differentiation markers such as bone sialoprotein and osteocalcin and diminished ability to accumulate calcium judged by alizerin red staining. We propose that any one of these defects in osteogenic cells alone, or in combination, could contribute to the osteoporosis observed in the biglycan knockout mice. Other data suggests there is a functional relationship between biglycan and bone morphogenic protein-2/4 (BMP 2/4) action in controlling skeletal cell differentiation. In order to test the hypothesis that functional compensation can occur between SLRPs, we created mice deficient in biglycan and decorin. Decorin deficient mice have normal bone mass while the double biglycan/decorin knockout mice have more severe osteopenia than the single biglycan indicating redundancy in SLRP function in bone tissue. To further determine whether compensation could occur between different classes of SLRPs, mice were generated that are deficient in both biglycan (class I) and fibromodulin, a class II SLRP highly expressed in mineralizing tissue. These doubly deficient mice had an impaired gait, ectopic calcification of tendons and premature osteoarthritis. Transmission electron microscopy analysis showed that like the decorin and biglycan knockouts, they have severely disturbed collagen fibril structures. Biomechanical analysis of the affected tendons showed they were weaker compared to control animals leading to the conclusion that instability of the joints could be the primary cause of all the skeletal defects observed in the fibromodulin/biglycan knockout mice. These studies present important new animal models for musculoskeletal diseases and provide the opportunity to characterize the network of signals that control tissue integrity and function through SLRP activity.
This article was published in Glycoconj J
and referenced in Journal of Glycobiology