We are attempting to develop methods for the sequencing of glycosaminoglycans from their reducing end. Here we describe a procedure for the analysis of dermatan sulphate from pig skin. The glycosaminoglycan is released from its parent proteoglycan by exhaustive proteolysis by using both endo- and exo-peptidases. The amino group of the residual serine residue is conjugated with a p-hydroxyphenyl group, which in turn is iodinated with 125I (the Bolton-Hunter reagent, BHR). The ion-exchange-purified end-labelled dermatan sulphate is then degraded partially or completely by various enzymic or chemical means to yield fragments extending from the labelled serine residue to the point of cleavage. The various products are separated by gradient PAGE, detected by autoradiography and quantified by videodensitometry. Complete digestion with chondroitin ABC lyase affords the labelled fragment delta HexA-GalNAc(-SO4)-GlcA-Gal-Gal-Xyl-Ser(-BHR). The structure was confirmed by sequential degradation from the non-reducing end by chondroitin AC lyase, HgCl2, and beta-galactosidase. Periodate oxidation cleaves most of the Xyl even without treatment with alkaline phosphatase, showing that Xyl is not substituted with phosphate. Results from partial and selective periodate oxidation indicate that most of the non-sulphated IdoA residues are located towards the non-reducing end. Partial or complete digestions with testicular hyaluronidase (in the presence of an excess of beta-glucuronidase) or chondroitin AC lyase identify the positions of GlcA residues. The results confirm that HexA next to Gal is always GlcA. Moreover, GlcA is common in the first three disaccharide repeats. Results with testicular hyaluronidase indicate that the distribution of clustered GlcA-GalNAc repeats is periodic and peaks at positions 1-3, 8-9 and around 25. Although there must be chains that contain IdoA in nearly all of the available positions, regions that have not been fully processed during biosynthesis are markedly non-random.

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