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Biochemistry. 1975 Jan 14;14(1):85-8.

Glycosaminoglycans of brain during development.


The concentration of hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, and heparan sulfate was measured in rat brain at 2-day intervals from birth to 1 month of age, and in 40-day-old and adult animals. The levels of all three glycosaminoglycans increased after birth to reach a peak at 7 days after which they declined steadily, attaining by 30 days concentrations within 10% of those present in adult brain. The greatest change was seen in hyaluronic acid, which decreased by 50% in 3 days, and declined to adult levels (28% of the peak concentration) by 18 days of age. Only heparan sulfate showed a significant change in metabolic activity during development (a fourfold increase in the relative specific activity of glucosamine), most of which occurred after 1 week of age. In 7-day-old rats almost 90% of the hyaluronic acid in brain is extractable by water alone, as compared to only 15% in adult animals, and this large amount of soluble hyaluronic acid in young rat brain is relatively inactive metabolically. On the basis of our data we propose that the higher amounts of hyaluronic acid found in very young brain may be responsible for the higher water content of brain at these ages, and that the hydrated hyaluronic acid serves as a matrix through which neuronal migration and differentiation may take place during early brain development.

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