, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 11-20

Characterization of proteoglycan-containing perineuronal nets by enzymatic treatments of rat brain sections

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Proteoglycans are among the major extracellular matrix components of the central nervous system. In the cerebral cortex and many subcortical regions, chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans, which are related to the aggrecan-versican- neurocan family, have been detected immunocytochemically in perineuronal nets that surround various types of neurons. This indicates that, in the brain, there is a nonhomogeneous but defined distribution of extracellular matrix components. The present study is a further attempt to characterize the perineuronal nets in the cerebral cortex. Sections obtained from fixed and unfixed rat brains were subjected to different enzymatic treatments prior to the visualization of perineuronal nets using N-acetylgal actosamine-binding Wisteria floribunda agglutinin, antibodies against chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans or hyaluronectin, and biotinylated hyaluronectin which detects hyaluronan. In all perineuronal nets the binding of the Wisteria floribunda agglutinin was abolished after the incubation of sections with chondroitinase ABC. The protein components of the proteoglycan complexes became easier to digest after removal of chondroitin sulphate chains or hyaluronan. Since only quantitative, and not qualitative, differences in the labelling properties and the structural appearance of cortical perineuronal nets were observed after the various treatments, it is concluded that, with regard to their proteoglycan composition, these structures have common basic properties