Articular cartilage function depends on the molecular composition and structure of its extracellular matrix (ECM). The collagen network (CN) provides cartilage with tensile integrity, but must also remodel during growth. Such remodeling may depend on matrix molecules interacting with the CN to modulate the tensile behavior of cartilage. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of increasingly selective matrix depletion on tensile properties of immature and mature articular cartilage, and thereby establish a framework for identifying molecules involved in CN remodeling. Depletion of immature cartilage with guanidine, chondroitinase ABC, chondroitinase AC, and Streptomyces hyaluronidase markedly increased tensile integrity, while the integrity of mature cartilage remained unaltered after depletion with guanidine. The enhanced tensile integrity after matrix depletion suggests that certain ECM components of immature matrix serve to inhibit CN interactions and may act as modulators of physiological alterations of cartilage geometry and tensile properties during growth/maturation.


Biomechanical Engineering



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