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Frequent benign outgrowths from bone known as osteochondromas, exhibiting typical endochondral ossification, are reported from single to multiple lesions. Characterised by a high incidence of osteochondromas and skeletal deformities, multiple hereditary exostoses (MHE) is the most common inherited musculoskeletal condition. While factors for severity remain unknown, mutations in exostosin 1 and exostosin 2 genes, encoding glycosyltransferases involved in the biosynthesis of ubiquitously expressed heparan sulphate (HS) chains, are associated with MHE. HS-binding bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are multifunctional proteins involved in the morphogenesis of bone and cartilage. HS and HS proteoglycans are involved in BMP-mediated morphogenesis by regulating their gradient formation and activity. Mutations in exostosin genes disturb HS biosynthesis, subsequently affecting its functional role in the regulation of signalling pathways. As BMPs are the primordial morphogens for bone development, we propose the hypothesis that BMP signalling may be critical in osteochondromas. For this reason, the outcomes of exostosin mutations on HS biosynthesis and interactions within osteochondromas and MHE are reviewed. Since BMPs are HS binding proteins, the interactions of HS with the BMP signalling pathway are discussed. The impact of mouse models in the quest to better understand the cell biology of osteochondromas is discussed. Several challenges and questions still remain and further investigations are needed to explore new approaches for better understanding of the pathogenesis of osteochondromas.


Araceli Cuellar, A Hari Reddi. Cell biology of osteochondromas: bone morphogenic protein signalling and heparan sulphates. International orthopaedics. 2013 Aug;37(8):1591-6

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PMID: 23771188

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