To analyse regional variations in extracellular matrix components of adult rat temporomandibular joint discs, immunohistochemical techniques were used to examine the localization of two small dermatan-sulphate proteoglycans, biglycan and decorin, and a large chondroitin-sulphate proteoglycan. Staining for biglycan was intense in the posterior band, although it had a rather weak and even distribution throughout the disc. In contrast, staining for decorin was faint in the intermediate zone and the central part of the posterior band, moderate in the anterior and posterior attachments and most intense in the junction between the anterior band and attachment. The upper surface of the disc stained more intensely than the lower. Similarly, there was intense staining for large chondroitin-sulphate proteoglycan in the peripheral band, but both the anterior and the temporal parts of the posterior attachments were faintly stained. These results demonstrate marked regional differences in the expression of biglycan, decorin and large chondroitin-sulphate proteoglycan in the temporomandibular joint discs of adult rats. These variations probably reflect the different biomechanical environments caused by the complicated articulatory functions of the temporomandibular joint.
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