The synthesis of sulfated proteoglycans in small explants from various parts of late blastulae from Ambystoma mexicanum or Xenopus laevis was investigated by incorporation of radioactive sulfate or glucosamine and galactosamine in media of low, normal or high tonicity. The explants differentiated into ciliated aggregates or fibroblast-like cells, or remained undifferentiated depending upon their origin in the embryo. High tonicity induces the explants to dissociated and prevents morphological differentiation, while low tonicity hardly affects this process. Yet, both types of media decrease the incorporation into glycosaminoglycans to various degrees, ranging from 40 to 80%, depending upon the species. In Xenopus, the uptake of sulfate is inhibited by as much as 90% in high tonicity media. The rate of incorporation of label is approximately twice as much in mesodermal as in animal or vegetal aggregates, which do not differ significantly. Animal aggregates from Ambystoma, however, revealed an exceptionally high uptake of sulfate. The relative distribution of chondroitin sulfates and heparan sulfates is not affected by changes in tonicity, except in Xenopus where high tonicity severely suppresses the synthesis of heparan sulfates, and is independent of the type of aggregate. The relationship between the synthesis of sulfated proteoglycans and processes involved in cell differentiation, especially cell adhesion, is discussed.

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