Profound changes occur in the uterine cervix during pregnancy. In particular, the extracellular matrix of the connective tissue is remodelled extensively. To elucidate the mechanisms involved in this process, we have analysed the proteoglycan pattern in the human cervix from pregnant and non-pregnant women. Proteoglycans of the cervix tissue specimen were extracted with 4 M guanidine hydrochloride and precipitated with 80% ethanol. Purification of proteoglycans was performed by several chromatographic steps. Characterization of proteoglycans was done by SDS/PAGE before and after digestion with glycosaminoglycan-specific enzymes. Proteoglycans were detected by combined Alcian Blue/silver staining or, after blotting of biotin-labelled proteoglycans on to poly(vinylidene difluoride) membrane, with peroxidase-conjugated avidin or by the use of keratan sulphate- or decorin-specific monoclonal antibodies. In contrast with previous reports, where only chondroitin/dermatan sulphate proteoglycans have been found in the uterine cervix, we have shown in the present study the existence of a large keratan sulphate proteoglycan with an Mr > 220000 in cervix samples from non-pregnant and pregnant women. This proteoglycan showed a strong reaction with the keratan sulphate-specific monoclonal antibody 5D4 and could be degraded by keratanases. The size of the core protein of this keratan sulphate proteoglycan was estimated to be about Mr 220000.

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