We report the chemical characterization of the highly sulphated glycoprotein SSG 185 from Volvox carteri. SSG 185 is a hydroxyproline-containing, extracellular glycoprotein. The sulphate residues are clustered within the parent saccharide structure of SSG 185, since on mercaptolysis all the sulphate residues are recovered in a small saccharide fragment containing mannose, arabinose and sulphate (in a molar ratio of 112). SSG 185 is a short-lived molecule, serving as a precursor for a high mol. wt. component of the extracellular matrix. Synthesis of SSG 185 is developmentally controlled. Different SSG 185 variants, with unknown modifications in the sulphated saccharide fragment, are synthesized at different developmental stages or under the influence of the sexual inducer. These modifications remain conserved in the aggregated state of SSG 185, indicating the development-dependent modification of the extracellular matrix.