Cultured monolayers of NMuMG mouse mammary epithelial cells have augmented amounts of cell surface chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycan (GAG) when cultured in transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), presumably because of increased synthesis on their cell surface proteoglycan (named syndecan), previously shown to contain chondroitin sulfate and heparan sulfate GAG. This increase occurs throughout the monolayer as shown using soluble thrombospondin as a binding probe. However, comparison of staining intensity of the GAG chains and syndecan core protein suggests variability among cells in the attachment of GAG chains to the core protein. Characterization of purified syndecan confirms the enhanced addition of chondroitin sulfate in TGF-beta: (a) radiosulfate incorporation into chondroitin sulfate is increased 6.2-fold in this proteoglycan fraction and heparan sulfate is increased 1.8-fold, despite no apparent increase in amount of core protein per cell, and (b) the size and density of the proteoglycan are increased, but reduced by removal of chondroitin sulfate. This is shown in part by treatment of the cells with 0.5 mM xyloside that blocks the chondroitin sulfate addition without affecting heparan sulfate. Higher xyloside concentrations block heparan sulfate as well and syndecan appears at the cell surface as core protein without GAG chains. The enhanced amount of GAG on syndecan is partly attributed to an increase in chain length. Whereas this accounts for the additional heparan sulfate synthesis, it is insufficient to explain the total increase in chondroitin sulfate; an approximately threefold increase in chondroitin sulfate chain addition occurs as well, confirmed by assessing chondroitin sulfate ABC lyase (ABCase)-generated chondroitin sulfate linkage stubs on the core protein. One of the effects of TGF-beta during embryonic tissue interactions is likely to be the enhanced synthesis of chondroitin sulfate chains on this cell surface proteoglycan.

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