Dermatan sulphate proteoglycans (DSPGs) synthesized in the presence of 35SO4 were characterized in culture media of fibroblast lines obtained from skin, synovium, and gingiva. The molecular mass of DSPG varied from 95-130 kDa as estimated by SDS/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis. Gingival fibroblasts constantly produced larger DSPGs than skin fibroblasts. This was due to the larger dermatan sulphate (DS) chains, which also showed tissue-related heterogeneity in the distribution of 4- and 6-sulphated disaccharide units. The N-glycosylated cores (44 and 47 kDa) obtained following chondroitinase ABC treatment were of identical size in all tissues. The cores from the different tissues were also of the same size (38 kDa) when addition of the N-linked oligosaccharides was inhibited by tunicamycin or when they were removed by N-glycanase treatment. No evidence for low-molecular-mass sulphated oligosaccharides was found. All tissues contained two mRNA species (1.6 and 1.9 kb) for the DSPG core protein. These data suggest that the pattern of transferase activities involved in the construction of DS chains differs from one tissue to another. This variation may modulate the functions of DSPG in the extracellular matrix.

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