The distribution of alkaline phosphatase activity in human articular cartilage from normal and osteoarthritic joints has been examined by an electron microscope technique, probably for the first time. In osteoarthritic cartilage chondrocytes and matrix vesicles close to the tidemark were positive for alkaline phosphatase activity. Large numbers of matrix vesicles were found within the extracellular matrix of osteoarthritic cartilage, and there is a specific relation between phosphatase activity, matrix vesicles, and initial mineral formation in the tidemark region of articular cartilage.
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