Near confluent monolayers of arterial smooth muscle cells derived from Macaca nemestrina were labeled with Na2[35S]O4 and the newly synthesized proteoglycans present in the culture medium and cell layer were extracted with either 4 M guanidine HCl (dissociative solvent) or 0.5 M guanidine HCl (associative solvent) in the presence of protease inhibitors. The proteoglycans in both compartments were further purified by cesium chloride density gradient ultracentrifugation. Two size classes of proteoglycans were observed in the medium as determined by chromatography on Sepharose CL-2B. The large population (Kav = 0.31) contained predominantly chondroitin sulfate chains with Mr = approximately 40,000. The smaller population (Kav = 0.61) contained dermatan sulfate chains of similar Mr (approximately 40,000). When tested for their ability to aggregate, only proteoglycans in the large-sized population were able to aggregate. A chondroitin sulfate containing proteoglycan with identical properties was isolated from the cell layer. In addition, the cell layer contained a dermatan sulfate component which eluted later on Sepharose CL-2B (Kav = 0.78) than the dermatan sulfate proteoglycan present in the medium. Electron microscopy of the purified proteoglycans revealed a bottlebrush structure containing a central core averaging 140 nm in length with an average of 8 to 10 side projections. The length of the side projections varied but averaged between 70 and 75 nm. Similar bottlebrush structures were observed in the intercellular matrix of the smooth muscle cell cultures after staining with Safranin 0. This culture system provides a model to investigate parameters involved in the regulation of synthesis and degradation of arterial proteoglycans.

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