A series of monoclonal antibodies was prepared against the pepsin-resistant fragment of type IX collagen designated HMW. One of these antibodies (called 2C2) was selected for further analysis. Antibody 2C2 showed no cross-reactivity with other collagen types by inhibition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. It recognized an epitope present in native HMW, but failed to recognize any of the three chains of HMW fractionated after denaturation followed by reduction and alkylation of interchain disulfide bridges. Electron microscopic observations after rotary shadowing showed that the location of the epitope for antibody 2C2 was close to the carboxy-terminus of HMW. Immunofluorescent staining of sections of embryonic and adult cartilage with antibody 2C2 after removal of proteoglycans by testicular hyaluronidase digestion showed that type IX collagen is distributed throughout the cartilage matrix, and is not present in other connective tissues or skeletal muscle. The intact type IX collagen molecule, which was secreted by a suspension culture of freshly isolated embryonic chick chondrocytes, was recognized by rotary shadowing in the presence of antibody 2C2 after first precipitating the procollagens from the culture medium with ammonium sulfate (30%). Two different collagenous molecules were present in the precipitate: a longer molecule of type II procollagen (average length, 335 nm) with both amino- and carboxy-propeptides still remaining uncleaved, and a shorter molecule (average length, 190 nm) which was identified as type IX collagen. Antibody 2C2 consistently bound to the shorter molecules at a site located 136 nm from a distinctive knob at one end of the molecule, and did not bind to any specific site on the type II procollagen molecules. The structure of the intact type IX collagen molecule with the location of both collagenous and noncollagenous domains was as predicted after converting the nucleotide sequence of a cDNA clone encoding for one of the chains of type IX collagen to an amino acid sequence (Ninomiya, Y., and B. R. Olsen, 1984, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 81:3014-3018).

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