Two dermatan sulphate-containing proteoglycans from bovine sclera were examined by rotary shadowing and electron microscopy, and the results were compared with previous biochemical findings. Both the large iduronate-poor proteoglycan (PGI) and the small iduronate-rich proteoglycan (PGII) possessed a globular proteinaceous region. Whereas PGI had a branched extension from the globular region, with five to eight side chains attached to it, PGII had only a single tail, which was of glycosaminoglycuronan. PGII aggregated via globular-region interactions, which were much diminished by reduction and alkylation. PGI aggregated via side chains and globular-region interactions. Although a few PGI aggregates were large, and similar to the hyaluronan-cartilage proteoglycan aggregates [Weidemann, Paulsson, Timpl, Engel & Heinegård (1984) Biochem. J. 224, 331-333], hyaluronan did not cause enhanced aggregation. PGII is very similar in shape to the small cartilage chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan, whereas PGI somewhat resembles the large cartilage chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan, although with many fewer glycosaminoglycan side chains, and probably only one globular region as opposed to two in the cartilage proteoglycan.

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