There is little information available regarding the morphological and biomolecular characteristics of mandibular condylar cartilage. The purpose of this study was to determine the age-related changes in the morphology and immunolocalization of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in mandibular condyles. The mandibular condylar cartilages from 4-, 8-, 16-, 32-, and 64-week-old Wistar male rats were examined to verify the localization of chondroitin-4-sulfate (Ch-4S), chondroitin-6-sulfate (Ch-6S) and keratan sulfate (KS) using an indirect immuno-fluorescent technique with three monoclonal antibodies for glycosaminoglycans, 2-B-6, 3-B-3 and 5-D-4, respectively. Morphologically, the condylar cartilage was a growth cartilage during growing periods, began to differentiate into articular cartilage from the central area of 16-week-old condyles, and became mature articular cartilage at 32 weeks of age. A regional difference was found in the morphological features and distribution of GAGs between the anterior, central, postero-superior and posterior areas of the condyles at each age. The immunohistochemical localizations of these three glycosaminoglycans showed age-related, morphology-dependent changes, from growth cartilage to articular cartilage-like cartilage. Immunoreactions for all of the antibodies decreased progressively with age in the interterritorial matrix, while the pericellular and territorial matrix in the condylar cartilage of the mandible maintained relatively higher immunoreactivity. In conclusion, age-related and regional differences in the localization of glycosaminoglycans Ch-4S, Ch-6S, and KS were found in the mandibular condyles in rats, and these changes are believed to be related to functional and developmental requirements.
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