The rat tracheal cartilage was shown to calcify during development. The process of calcification was characterized in terms of distribution of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and alterations to immunolocalization of types I and II collagens and glycosaminoglycans of proteoglycans during the development of the tracheal cartilage, in comparison with calcification of the epiphyseal growth plate cartilage. ALP activity was not identified in the tracheal cartilage in the course of calcification, which therefore differed from that in the growth plate. The tracheal cartilage matrix was not resorbed or invaded by type I collagen during calcification. This suggests that no osteogenesis is involved in calcification of the cartilage. Immunoreactivity for type II collagen became weaker in the central region of the tracheal cartilage during development. No net loss of proteoglycans was identified with Alcian blue staining after calcification of the tracheal cartilage. Immunoreactivity for chondroitin 4-sulphate increased in the calcified tracheal cartilage, while reactivity for chondroitin 6-sulphate was weaker in the calcified area than in the surrounding uncalcified region of the tracheal cartilage. The alteration of the extracellular matrices during development may be involved in the calcification of the rat tracheal cartilage.
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