Effect of sulfated glycosaminoglycan digestion on the transverse permeability of medial collateral ligament

J Biomech. 2010 Sep 17;43(13):2567-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2010.05.012. Epub 2010 Jun 8.


Dermatan and chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) comprise over 90% of the GAG content in ligament. Studies of their mechanical contribution to soft tissues have reported conflicting results. Measuring the transient compressive response and biphasic material parameters of the tissue may elucidate the contributions of GAGs to the viscoelastic response to deformation. The hypotheses of the current study were that digestion of sulfated GAGs would decrease compressive stress and aggregate modulus while increasing the permeability of porcine medial collateral ligament (MCL). Confined compression stress relaxation experiments were carried out on porcine MCL and tissue treated with chondroitinase ABC (ChABC). Results were fit to a biphasic constitutive model to derive permeability and aggregate modulus. Bovine articular cartilage was used as a benchmark tissue to verify that the apparatus provided reliable results. GAG digestion removed up to 88% of sulfated GAGs from the ligament. Removal of sulfated GAGs increased the permeability of porcine MCL nearly 6-fold versus control tissues. Peak stress decreased significantly. Bovine articular cartilage exhibited the typical reduction of GAG content and resultant decreases in stress and modulus and increases in permeability with ChABC digestion. Given the relatively small amount of GAG in ligament (<1% of tissue dry weight) and the significant change in peak stress and permeability upon removal of GAGs, sulfated GAGs may play a significant role in maintaining the apposition of collagen fibrils in the transverse direction, thus supporting dynamic compressive loads experienced by the ligament during complex joint motion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / analysis
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / physiology
  • Compressive Strength
  • Dermatan Sulfate / analysis
  • Dermatan Sulfate / physiology
  • Glycosaminoglycans / analysis
  • Glycosaminoglycans / physiology*
  • Medial Collateral Ligament, Knee / chemistry
  • Medial Collateral Ligament, Knee / physiology*
  • Permeability
  • Sulfates
  • Swine


  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Sulfates
  • chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycan
  • Dermatan Sulfate
  • Chondroitin Sulfates