A rat hepatoma cell line was shown to synthesize heparan sulfate and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. Unlike cultured hepatocytes, the hepatoma cells did not deposit these proteoglycans into an extracellular matrix, and most of the newly synthesized heparan sulfate proteoglycans were secreted into the culture medium. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans were also found associated with the cell surface. These proteoglycans could be solubilized by mild trypsin or detergent treatment of the cells but could not be displaced from the cells by incubation with heparin. The detergent-solubilized heparan sulfate proteoglycan had a hydrophobic segment that enabled it to bind to octyl-Sepharose. This segment could conceivably anchor the molecule in the lipid interior of the plasma membrane. The size of the hepatoma heparan sulfate proteoglycans was similar to that of proteoglycans isolated from rat liver microsomes or from primary cultures of rat hepatocytes. Ion-exchange chromatography on DEAE-Sephacel indicated that the hepatoma heparan sulfate proteoglycans had a lower average charge density than the rat liver heparan sulfate proteoglycans. The lower charge density of the hepatoma heparan sulfate can be largely attributed to a reduced number of N-sulfated glucosamine units in the polysaccharide chain compared with that of rat liver heparan sulfate. Hepatoma heparan sulfate proteoglycans purified from the culture medium had a considerably lower affinity for fibronectin-Sepharose compared with that of rat liver heparan sulfate proteoglycans. Furthermore, the hepatoma proteoglycan did not bind to the neoplastic cells, whereas heparan sulfate from normal rat liver bound to the hepatoma cells in a time-dependent reaction. The possible consequences of the reduced sulfation of the heparan sulfate proteoglycan produced by the hepatoma cells are discussed in terms of the postulated roles of heparan sulfate in the regulation of cell growth and extracellular matrix formation.

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