The aggregating proteoglycans of the lectican family are important components of extracellular matrices. Aggrecan is the most well studied of these and is central to cartilage biomechanical properties and skeletal development. Key to its biological function is the fixed charge of the many glycosaminoglycan chains, that provide the basis for the viscoelastic properties necessary for load distribution over the articular surface. This review is focused on the globular domains of aggrecan and their role in anchoring the proteoglycans to other extracellular matrix components. The N-terminal G1 domain is vital in that it binds the proteoglycan to hyaluronan in ternary complex with link protein, retaining the proteoglycan in the tissue. The importance of the C-terminal G3 domain interactions has recently been emphasized by two different human hereditary disorders: autosomal recessive aggrecan-type spondyloepimetaphyseal dysplasia and autosomal dominant familial osteochondritis dissecans. In these two conditions, different missense mutations in the aggrecan C-type lectin repeat have been described. The resulting amino acid replacements affect the ligand interactions of the G3 domain, albeit with widely different phenotypic outcomes.
Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry, 2012, Vol 60, Issue 12, p. 987-996