Together with collaborators from the University of Georgia and Chiba University of Japan, researchers in the our lab have recently decoded the sequence of bikunin. Bikunin is a proteoglycan - a protein decorated with a long, sulfated (and thus negatively charged) saccharide chain. Bikunin is also the simplest proteoglycan, having just one chain attached at one specific site. However, the mixture of different chain lengths and sulfation patterns created such a complex system that the individual components could not analyzed. Through careful purification and size separation, the team was able to create fractions that contained relatively few individual chains, which could then be analyzed by tandem mass spectrometry. Analysis of each chain revealed an overall pattern, or sequence, in sulfation of the saccharide chains.