1. Three chondroitin sulphate components were isolated from adult bovine nasal cartilage after treatment with alkaline NaB3H4. Average molecular weights of 13000, 18 600 and 28 000 were obtained for chondroitin sulphate species representing 10, 52 and 38% (w/w) of the total chondroitin sulphate respectively. Each chondroitin sulphate pool has a narrow molecular-weight distribution. 2. A proteoglycan subunit preparation, isolated from one nasal cartilage by extraction and density-gradient fractionation in dissociative solvents, partitioned on a CsCl density gradient according to size and composition. Variation of proteoglycan molecular weight across the gradient was directly related to the average chondrotin sulphate chain length, which in turn reflected the relative proportion of the three chondroitin sulphate pools in each proteoglycan fraction. Consideration of proteoglycan molecular parameters, compositions and behaviour on sedimentation leads to a proposal that nasal cartilage contains 3 distinct proteoglycan pools, each of which has a constant number of chondroitin sulphate side chains of different average molecular weight. 3. Molecular-weight distribution parameters for these proteoglycan preparations indicate that all serine residues on the protein core capable of initiating chondroitin sulphate biosynthesis are occupied and that proteoglycan polydispersity results directly from the polydispersity of the attached chondroitin sulphate component.

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