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Galectin-3 is a downstream regulator of matrix metalloproteinase-9 function during endochondral bone formation


Endochondral bone formation is characterized by the progressive replacement of a cartilage anlagen by bone at the growth plate with a tight balance between the rates of chondrocyte proliferation, differentiation, and cell death. Deficiency of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) leads to an accumulation of late hypertrophic chondrocytes. We found that galectin-3, an in vitro substrate of MMP-9, accumulates in the late hypertrophic chondrocytes and their surrounding extracellular matrix in the expanded hypertrophic cartilage zone. Treatment of wild-type embryonic metatarsals in culture with full-length galectin-3, but not galectin-3 cleaved by MMP-9, mimicked the embryonic phenotype of Mmp-9 null mice, with an increased hypertrophic zone and decreased osteoclast recruitment. These results indicate that extracellular galectin-3 could be an endogenous substrate of MMP-9 that acts downstream to regulate hypertrophic chondrocyte death and osteoclast recruitment during endochondral bone formation. Thus, the disruption of growth plate homeostasis in Mmp-9 null mice links galectin-3 and MMP-9 in the regulation of the clearance of late chondrocytes through regulation of their terminal differentiation.

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