Developmental dynamics : an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists

Developmental expression of the HNK-1 carbohydrate epitope on aggrecan during chondrogenesis.

PMID 12508223


Previously, we showed that the HNK-1 carbohydrate epitope is expressed on aggrecan synthesized in the notochord but not in mature cartilage. In the present study, we demonstrate that in immature cartilage (embryonic day 6) the HNK-1 epitope is also expressed predominantly on aggrecan proteoglycan molecules. This finding was verified by using an aggrecan-deficient mutant, the nanomelic chick, which lacks HNK-1 immunostaining in the extracellular matrix of dividing and hypertrophic chondrocytes as late as embryonic day 12. By using both biochemical and immunologic approaches, the initially prominent expression of the HNK-1 epitope is down-regulated as development of limb and vertebral cartilage proceeds, so that by embryonic day 14 no HNK-1 is detectable. Localization changes with development and the HNK-1-aggrecan matrix becomes restricted to dividing and hypertrophic chondrocytes and is particularly concentrated in the intraterritorial matrix. Concomitant with the temporal and spatial decreases in HNK-1, there is a significant increase in keratan-sulfate content and the aggrecan-borne HNK-1 epitope is closely associated with proteolytic peptides that contain keratan sulfate chains, rather than chondroitin sulfate chains or carbohydrate-free domains. Lastly, the diminution in HNK-1 expression is consistent with a reduction in mRNA transcripts specific for at least one of the key enzymes in HNK-1 oligosaccharide biosynthesis, the HNK-1 sulfotransferase. These findings indicate that the HNK-1 carbohydrate may be a common modifier of several proteoglycans (such as aggrecan) that are usually expressed early in development, and that HNK-1 addition to these molecules may be regulated by tissue- and temporal-specific expression of requisite sulfotransferases and glycosyltransferases.