We report for the first time that, after centrifugation of adult bovine vitreous, the hyaluronan-rich supernatant contains collagens which can be isolated in their intact forms by precipitation with 4.5 M NaCl. This precipitate constituted approx. 4% of the total vitreous collagen and comprised collagen types IX and II (in the approximate ratio of 4:1) with negligible amounts of type-V/XI collagen. Type-II collagen was present partly in a pro-alpha 1(II) form, suggesting that there is active synthesis of type-II collagen into the matrix of adult bovine vitreous. Type-IX collagen was purified (2-2.5 mg/l of vitreous) and its glycosaminoglycan chain composition was analysed. Bovine vitreous type-IX collagen always possessed a glycosaminoglycan chain of comparatively low M(r) that was predominantly 4-sulphated, with chondroitin 6-sulphate representing a more minor component. By contrast, chick vitreous has been shown to contain type-IX collagen which always possesses a high-M(r) chondroitin sulphate chain that is predominantly 6-sulphated. The functional significance of these different glycosaminoglycan chain lengths and sulphation patterns is discussed.

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