We have previously described the structures of neutral and sialylated O-glycosidic mannose-linked tetrasaccharides and keratan sulphate polysaccharide chains in the chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan of brain. The present paper provides information on a series of related sialylated and/or sulphated tri- to penta-saccharides released by alkaline-borohydride treatment of the proteoglycan glycopeptides. The oligosaccharides were fractionated by ion-exchange chromatography and gel filtration, and their structural properties were studied by methylation analysis and fast-atom-bombardment mass spectrometry. Five fractions containing [35S]sulphate-labelled oligosaccharides were obtained by ion-exchange chromatography, each of which was eluted from Sephadex G-50 as two well-separated peaks. The apparent Mr values of both the large- and small-molecular-size fractions increased with increasing acidity (and sulphate labelling) of the oligosaccharides. The larger-molecular-size fractions contained short mannose-linked keratan sulphate chains of Mr 3000-4500, together with some asparagine-linked oligosaccharides. The smaller tri- to penta-saccharides, of Mr 800-1400, appear to have a common GlcNac(beta 1-3)Manol core, and to contain one to two residues of sialic acid and/or sulphate.

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