Cartilage fibronectin isoforms: In search of functions for a special population of matrix glycoproteins

Nancy Burton-Wurster, George Lust, James N. MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Fibronectins are a part of the repertoire of matrix molecules produced by the chondrocyte in order to assemble a functional cartilage matrix. They are encoded by a single gene, but significant protein heterogeneity results from alternative RNA splicing. The population of fibronectin isoforms in adult cartilage is significantly different from fibronectins in other tissues and includes relatively high levels (20-30%) of ED-B(+) fibronectins and high levels (50-80%) of the cartilage specific (V+C)- isoform which lacks the V, III-15 and I-10 segments. Less than 4% of the fibronectins in cartilage are ED-A(+). The synthesis and accumulation of cartilage fibronectins are modulated in response to matrix pathology and to biochemical and mechanical mediators. In addition, alternative splicing patterns are altered when chondrocytes are allowed to dedifferentiate in monolayer culture such that the (V+C)- isoform is lost but the ED-A(+) isoform is reexpressed at high levels. Cartilage fibronectins have the potential to participate in cell signalling via integrin mediated pathways and to interact with other cartilage matrix macromolecules. The tissue-specific splicing pattern gives rise to a unique population of fibronectins within the cartilage. Together, this points to a critical role for cartilage fibronectins in chondrocyte cell biology and the organization of a biomechanically sound matrix. However, the precise function (or functions) of the cartilage fibronectins has (or have) not been defined. This minireview examines current information about the structure, synthesis and interactions of cartilage fibronectins. When possible, potential consequences of the inclusion of the ED-B segment or the exclusion of the V, III-15 and I-10 segments are discussed. The goal is to stimulate critical thought and discussion in the field about cartilage fibronectin isoforms, their function(s) in normal cartilage, and their role(s) in the pathogenesis of cartilage diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-454
Number of pages14
JournalMatrix Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 1997


  • Alternative splicing
  • Cartilage
  • Chondrocyte
  • Fibronectin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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