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Lumican belongs to the small leucine-rich repeat proteoglycan (SLRP) gene family and has been reported to exist in the cornea, intervertebral disc and tendon. Lumican plays a significant role in the assembly and regulation of collagen fibres. The human temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disc is made up of fibrocartilage with an extracellular matrix (ECM) composed of collagen and proteoglycans. The existence and behaviour of lumican have not been studied in the human TMJ disc. Therefore, we used immunohistochemical methods to detect lumican, CD34 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and histochemical staining with toluidine blue in 13 human TMJ specimens (10 surgically removed and 3 obtained from autopsy). In both normal and deformed discs we observed staining with toluidine blue. We found that the area of metachromasia inside the deformed disc was uneven and expression of lumican was strong in the areas negative for metachromasia. Staining of VEGF and CD34 inside the deformed disc was seen. We confirmed the expression of lumican in the human TMJ disc and showed that a large number of fibroblastlike cells existed in the area of strong lumican expression. These new findings about the behaviour of lumican suggest that it may play a key role in the generation of a new collagen network by fibroblast-like cells.
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