Reichert's membrane, an extraembryonic membrane present in developing rodents, has been proposed as an in vivo model for the study of basement membranes. We have used this membrane as a source for isolation of basement membrane proteoglycans. Reichert's membranes were extracted in a guanidine/3-[(3-cholamidopropyl)dimethylammonio]-1-propanesulfonate buffer followed by cesium chloride density-gradient ultracentrifugation under dissociative conditions. The proteoglycans were subsequently purified from the two most dense fractions (greater than 1.3 g/ml) by ion-exchange chromatography. Mice were immunized with the proteoglycan preparation and four mAbs recognizing the core protein of a high-density, buoyant chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan were raised. Confirmation of antibody specificity was carried out by the preparation of affinity columns made from each of the mAbs. Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) were purified from both supernatant and tissue fractions of Reichert's membranes incubated in short-term organ culture in the presence of radiolabel. The resultant affinity-purified proteoglycan samples were examined by gel filtration, SDS-PAGE, and immunoblotting. This proteoglycan is of high molecular weight (Mr = 5-6 x 10(5)), with a core protein of Mr = approximately 1.5-1.6 x 10(5) and composed exclusively of chondroitin sulfate chains with an average Mr = 1.6-1.8 x 10(4). In addition, a CSPG was purified from adult rat kidney, whose core protein was also Mr = 1.6 x 10(5). The proteoglycan and its core protein were also recognized by all four mAbs. Indirect immunofluorescence of rat tissue sections stained with these antibodies reveal a widespread distribution of this proteoglycan, localized specifically to Reichert's membrane and nearly all basement membranes of rat tissues. In addition to heparan sulfate proteoglycans, it therefore appears that at least one CSPG is a widespread basement membrane component.

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