Proteoglycans (PGs) consist of a core protein and attached glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and have diverse roles in cell and tissue biology. In follicles PGs have been detected only in follicular fluid and in cultured granulosa cells, and the composition of their GAGs has been determined. To identify PGs in whole ovarian follicles, not just in follicular fluid and granulosa cells, small (1–3-mm) bovine follicles were harvested. A proportion of these was incubated with 35SO4 for 24 h to incorporate radiolabel into the GAGs. The freshly harvested and cultured follicles were sequentially extracted with 6 M urea buffer, the same buffer with 0.1% Triton X-100 and then with 0.1 M NaOH. Proteoglycans were subjected to ion-exchange and size-exclusion chromatography. The GAGs were analyzed by chemical and enzymic digestion, and on the basis of their composition, we chose a list of known PGs to measure by ELISA analyses. Versican, perlecan, decorin, but not aggrecan or biglycan, were identified. These, excluding decorin for technical reasons, as well as a basal lamina glycoprotein, nidogen/entactin, were immunolocalized. Versican was localized to the thecal layers, including externa and the interna particularly in an area adjacent to the follicular basal lamina. Perlecan and nidogen were localized to the follicular basal lamina of antral follicles, both healthy and atretic, but not to that of preantral follicles. Both were localized to subendothelial basal laminas, but the former was not readily detected in arteriole smooth muscle layers. This study has confirmed the presence of versican and perlecan, but not the latter as a component of follicular fluid, and identified decorin and nidogen in ovarian antral follicles.
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