We used antibodies raised against both a heparan sulfate proteoglycan purified from a mouse sarcoma and a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan purified from a rat yolk sac carcinoma to study the appearance and distribution of proteoglycans in cultured cells. Normal rat kidney cells displayed a fibrillar network of immunoreactive material at the cell surface when stained with antibodies to heparan sulfate proteoglycan, while virally transformed rat kidney cells lacked such a surface network. Antibodies to chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan revealed a punctate pattern on the surface of both cell types. The distribution of these two proteoglycans was compared to that of fibronectin by double-labeling immunofluorescent staining. The heparan sulfate proteoglycan was found to codistribute with fibronectin, and fibronectin and laminin gave coincidental stainings. The distribution of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan was not coincidental with that of fibronectin. Distinct fibers containing fibronectin but lacking chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan were observed. When the transformed cells were cultured in the presence of sodium butyrate, their morphology changed, and fibronectin, laminin, and heparan sulfate proteoglycan appeared at the cell surface in a pattern resembling that of normal cells. These results suggest that fibronectin, laminin, and heparan sulfate proteoglycan may be complexed at the cell surface. The proteoglycan may play a central role in assembly of such complexes since heparan sulfate has been shown to interact with both fibronectin and laminin.

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