Chondroitin's functions depend largely on the properties of the overall proteoglycan of which it is a part. These functions can be broadly divided into structural and regulatory roles. However, this division is not absolute, and some proteoglycans have both structural and regulatory roles (see versican).
Chondroitin sulfate is a major component of extracellular matrix, and is important in maintaining the structural integrity of the tissue. This function is typical of the large aggregating proteoglycans: aggrecan, versican, brevican, and neurocan, collectively termed the lecticans.
As part of aggrecan, chondroitin sulfate is a major component of cartilage. The tightly packed and highly charged sulfate groups of chondroitin sulfate generate electrostatic repulsion that provides much of the resistance of cartilage to compression. Loss of chondroitin sulfate from the cartilage is a major cause of osteoarthritis.
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