Transthyretin is one of two specific proteins involved in the transport of thyroid hormones in plasma; it possesses two binding sites for serum retinol-binding protein. In the present study we demonstrate that transthyretin also interacts in vitro with [35S]sulphate-labelled material from the medium of HepG2 cells. By using the same strategy as for purifying serum retinol-binding protein, [35S]sulphate-labelled medium was specifically eluted from a transthyretin-affinity column. Ion-exchange chromatography showed that the material was highly polyanionic, and its size and alkali susceptibility suggested that it was a proteoglycan. Structural analyses with chondroitinase ABC lyase and nitrous acid revealed that approx. 20% was chondroitin sulphate and 80% heparan sulphate. Immunoprecipitation showed that the [35S]sulphate-labelled material contained perlecan. Further analysis by binding studies revealed specific and saturable binding of 125I-transthyretin to perlecan-enriched Matrigel. Because inhibition of sulphation by treating HepG2 cells with sodium chlorate increased the affinity of the perlecan for transthyretin, and [3H]heparin was not retained by the transthyretin affinity column, the binding is probably mediated by the core protein and is not a protein–glycosaminoglycan interaction. Because perlecan is released from transthyretin in water, the binding might be due to hydrophobic interactions.

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