The mammalian vitreous gel is a specialized type of highly hydrated extracellular matrix, which is composed of interwoven networks of uronic acid-containing polyanionic macromolecules, (i.e., hyaluronan, versican, and IX collagen) and collagen fibrils. Hyaluronan comprises the vast majority of the uronic acid-containing molecules, which contributes to structure and function of vitreous in at least two ways: its unique biophysical and hydrodynamic properties influence the vitreous homeostasis and biomechanics; it is also a template for assembly of other extracellular macromolecules, for example, versican. The other uronic acid-containing molecules namely versican and IX collagen--two chondroitin sulfate (CS) proteoglycans--occur in the vitreous without significant quantitative variations among different mammalians but with some marked variations on the molecular size and sulfation pattern of their chondroitin sulfate side chains. The contribution of versican and IX collagen (through their protein and their CS side chains) to the supramolecular organization of the vitreous gel is poorly understood. However, versican having the ability to bind hyaluronan via its N-terminal and other binding partners via its C-terminal region can play a crucial role on the structural stability and functionality of the vitreous.
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