Newly synthesized proteoglycans of rat incisors were labelled in vivo for 6h with [35S]-sulphate in order to facilitate their detection during purification and characterization. Proteoglycans were extracted from non-mineralized portions (predentine) of rat incisors with 4M-guanidinium chloride and subsequently from dentine by demineralization with a 0.4M-EDTA solution containing 4M-guanidinium chloride. Both extractions were performed at 4 degrees C in the presence of proteinase inhibitors. Purification of proteoglycans was achieved with a procedure involving gel-filtration chromatography, selective precipitation of phosphoproteins, affinity chromatography and ion-exchange chromatography. Two proteoglycan populations were found in the initial extract (Pd-PG I and Pd-PG II), whereas only one fraction (D-PG) was obtained after demineralization. The minor proteoglycan fraction from the first extract, Pd-PG I, although not totally characterized, differed sharply from the other proteoglycans in that it had a larger molecular size with larger glycosaminoglycan chains composed of chondroitin 4- and 6-sulphate isomers. In contrast, the major proteoglycans Pd-PG II and D-PG had smaller hydrodynamic sizes with smaller glycosaminoglycan chains (but larger than those from bovine nasal cartilage proteoglycans) composed exclusively of chondroitin 4-sulphate. The major proteoglycans were incapable of interacting with hyaluronic acid. In general, the amino acid compositions of the major proteoglycans of rat incisors resembled that of bovine nasal cartilage proteoglycans, but the former had lower proline, valine, isoleucine, leucine, and higher aspartic acid, contents.