Recent glycobiology studies have suggested fundamental biological functions for chondroitin sulfate (CS) and dermatan sulfate (DS), which are widely distributed as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) sidechains of proteoglycans (PGs) in the extracellular matrix and at cellular level. Several biological functions are closely associated with the structure and in particular with the sulfation patterns of these polysaccharides. CS is also used as a structure-modifying osteoarthritis (OA) drug that reverses, retards, or stabilizes the pathology of OA, thereby providing symptomatic relief in the long-term treatment. Advances in analytical separational techniques, including agarose-gel electrophoresis, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), capillary electrophoresis (HPCE), fluorophore-assisted carbohydrate electrophoresis (FACE) and electrospray ionization mass (ESI-MS) enable us to examine alterations of CS/DS with respect to their quantities and fine structural features in various pathological conditions, thus becoming applicable for diagnosis. Furthermore, sensitive analytical procedures enable us to follow the pharmacological application of CS in the treatment of OA and to monitor the progression of the disorder. In this review, the chromatographic and electromigration procedures developed to analyse and characterise CS/DS are presented. Moreover, a critical evaluation of the biological relevance of the results obtained by the developed methodology is discussed.
Keywords: Chondroitin sulfate, Glycosaminoglycans, HPLC, Capillary electrophoresis, FACE, ESI-MS, Human plasma
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