Glycosaminoglycans (GAG) were isolated from bovine retinal microvessel basement membrane (RMV-BM) and quantitatively analyzed using a recently described competitive binding assay that is specific for and sensitive to nanogram amounts of heparan and chondroitin sulfates. Treatment of osmotically lysed retinal microvessels with the ionic detergent deoxycholate (DOC), required for liberation of the extracellular matrix for plasma membrane lipoproteins and purification of the insoluble matrix, solubilized less than 5% of the GAG in the water-insoluble material. Total GAG content in the DOC-insoluble basement membranes was approx. 0.52 micrograms/mg dry weight; about 70% of the measurable GAG was resistant to both chondroitinase ABC and chondroitinase AC digestion and was sensitive to nitrous acid treatment, indicating its heparan sulfate nature. Cellulose acetate electrophoresis revealed two bands, one of which had an electrophoretic mobility similar to heparan sulfate standard and was sensitive to nitrous acid; the other migrated in the same position as chondroitin sulfate standard and was sensitive to chondroitinase ABC and chondroitinase AC digestion. These results provide evidence that RMV-BM contains chondroitin sulfate(s) as well as heparan sulfate, and offer the first quantitative analysis of GAG in this extracellular matrix.