The effect of ascorbate on the glycosaminoglycans synthesized by normal and simian virus 40(SV40)-transformed human skin fibroblasts was examined. Cells were incubated in the presence or absence of ascorbate, and radiolabelled with [3H]glucosamine and [35S]sulphate for 48 h, 3 days after reaching confluence. Glycosaminoglycans were analysed in the medium, a collagenase extract, and in the trypsin/cell-associated fraction. Hyaluronic acid was the main 3H-labelled glycosaminoglycan in all but the collagenase extracts, and showed a large decrease in normal fibroblast cultures, but a significant increase in SV40-transformed fibroblast cultures following feeding with ascorbate. Incorporation of [3H]glucosamine into sulphated glycosaminoglycans was reduced in normal fibroblast cultures but increased slightly in SV40-transformed cultures following ascorbate supplementation. [35S]sulphate incorporation remained essentially unaltered in both cell cultures. Ascorbate stimulated the deposition of glycosaminoglycans into the insoluble matrix of normal fibroblasts while reducing the deposition in SV40-transformed fibroblast cultures. The observed changes may in part be related to ascorbate-induced deposition of collagen in normal fibroblast cultures and the inability of the transformed fibroblast cells to deposit an extensive extracellular matrix, in addition to possible changes in the specific activity of the UDP-N-acetyl-[3H]hexosamine pool.

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