The distribution of cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) was determined in rat liver by immunocytochemistry. A polyclonal antibody was raised against HSPGs purified from rat liver microsomes which specifically immunoprecipitated liver membrane HSPGs. It was shown to recognize both the heparin-releasable and membrane-intercalated form of membrane HSPGs and to recognize determinants on the core protein of these HSPGs. By immunocytochemistry membrane HSPGs were localized to hepatocytes. The distribution of HSPGs at the cell surface of the hepatocyte was restricted to the sinusoidal domain of the plasmalemma; there was little or no staining of the lateral or bile canalicular domains. Intracellularly, HSPGs were occasionally detected in cisternae of the rough endoplasmic reticulum and were regularly found in Golgi cisternae--usually distributed across the entire Golgi stack. HSPGs were also localized in some endosomes, lysosomes, and cytoplasmic vesicles of hepatocytes. We conclude that the HSPGs recognized by this antibody have a restricted distribution in rat liver: they are largely confined to the sinusoidal plasmalemmal domain and to biosynthetic and endocytic compartments of hepatocytes.

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