Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have been implicated in physiological cartilage matrix remodelling as well as in pathological and invasive extracellular matrix remodelling of tissue. Age-related changes in the gene expression patterns of MMPs in mandibular condylar cartilages (MCCs) were analysed. We examined the gene expression patterns of Mmp-8 and -13 and their substrates, Col1a1, Col2a1 and Col10a1, in MCC of growing and ageing rats. Temporomandibular joints of male Wistar rats aged 4, 8, 16 and 32 weeks were subjected to in situ hybridization analysis. Histologically, MMCs showed characteristics of growth plate cartilage at ages 4 and 8 weeks, and more closely resembled articular cartilage thereafter. Mmp-8 was expressed in the cells in all cartilaginous cell layers at ages 4 and 8 weeks, and then was localized only in the mature cells at ages 16 and 32 weeks. Whereas Mmp-13 expression was limited to the lowermost hypertrophic chondrocytes in the growth stage, mature chondrocytes instead of hypertrophic chondrocytes expressed Mmp-13 in adult non-hypertrophic MCC. Because Mmp-8 and -13 expression overlapped with Col2a1 and Col10a1, chondrocytes could play a pivotal role in degradation as well as production of the cartilaginous matrix in MCC.
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