, Volume 328, Issue 1, pp 137-151
Date: 29 Nov 2006

Contributions of matrix metalloproteinases toward Meckel’s cartilage resorption in mice: immunohistochemical studies, including comparisons with developing endochondral bones

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The middle portion of Meckel’s cartilage (one of four portions that disappear with unique fate) degrades via hypertrophy and the cell death of chondrocytes and via the resorption of cartilage by chondroclasts. We have examined the immunolocalization of matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), MMP-9, MMP-13, and MMP-14 (members of the MMP activation cascade) and galectin-3 (an endogenous substrate for MMP-9 and an anti-apoptotic factor) during resorption of Meckel’s cartilage in embryonic mice and have compared the results with those of developing endochondral bones in hind limbs. MMP immunoreactivity, except for MMP-2, is present in nearly all chondrocytes in the middle portion of Meckel’s cartilage. On embryonic day 15 (E15), faint MMP-2-immunoreactive and intense MMP-13-immunoreactive signals occur in the periosteal bone matrix deposited by periosteal osteoblasts on the lateral surface, whereas MMP-9 and MMP-14 are immunolocalized in the peripheral chondrocytes of Meckel’s cartilage. The activation cascade of MMPs by face-to-face cross-talk between cells may thus contribute to the initiation of Meckel’s cartilage degradation. On E16, immunopositive signaling for MMP-13 is detectable in the ruffled border of chondroclasts at the resorption front, whereas immunostaining for galectin-3 is present at all stages of chondrocyte differentiation, especially in hypertrophic chondrocytes adjacent to chondroclasts. Galectin-3-positive hypertrophic chondrocytes may therefore coordinate the resorption of calcified cartilage through cell-to-cell contact with chondroclasts. In metatarsal specimens from E16, MMPs are detected in osteoblasts, young osteocytes, and the bone matrix of the periosteal envelope, whereas galectin-3 immunoreactivity is intense in young periosteal osteocytes. In addition, intense MMP-9 and MMP-14 immunostaining has been preferentially found in pre-hypertrophic chondrocytes, although galectin-3 immunoreactivity markedly decreases in hypertrophic chondrocytes. These results indicate that the degradation of Meckel’s cartilage involves an activation cascade of MMPs that differs from that in endochondral bone formation.