Proteoglycans are now well regarded as key facilitators of cell biology. Although a majority of their interactions and functions are attributed to the decorating glycosaminoglycan chains, there is a growing appreciation for the roles of the proteoglycan core protein and for considering proteoglycans as replete protein-glycan conjugates. This appreciation, seeded by early work in proteoglycan biology, is now being advanced and exalted by modern approaches in chemical glycobiology. In this review, we discuss up-and-coming methods to unearth the fine-scale architecture of proteoglycans that modulate their functions and interactions. Crucial to these efforts is the production of chemically defined materials, including semisynthetic proteoglycans and the in situ capture of interacting proteins. Together, the integration of chemical biology approaches promises to expedite the dissection of the structural heterogeneity of proteoglycans and deliver refined insight into their functions.

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