Alkaline borohydride-reduced keratan sulfate chains were isolated from human articular cartilage aggrecan from individuals of various ages (0-85 years old). The chains were structurally characterized using 1H NMR spectroscopy, gel permeation chromatography, and oligosaccharide profiling (after digestion with the enzymes keratanase and keratanase II). The results show that from birth to early adolescence (0-9 years) the levels of alpha(1-3)-fucosylation, alpha(2-3)-sialylation, and galactose sulfation increase. Also, the weight-average molecular weight of the chains increases. During maturation (9-18 years) the levels of fucosylation and galactose sulfation continue to increase and alpha(2-6)-sialylation of the chains occurs. In adult life (18-85 years) there is little change in the weight-average molecular weight of the chains, and the levels of fucosylation, sialylation, and sulfation remain fairly constant.