The amount and the types of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) present in human pancreatic carcinoma were examined and compared with those in normal pancreas. Human pancreatic carcinoma contained increased levels (4-fold) of total GAGs. Particularly, this carcinoma is characterized by a 12-fold increase of hyaluronan (HA) and a 22-fold increase in chondroitin sulfate (CS) content. CS in pancreatic carcinoma exhibited an altered disaccharide composition which is associated with marked increase of non-sulfated and 6-sulfated disaccharides. Dermatan sulfate (DS) was also increased (1.5-fold) in carcinoma, whereas heparan sulfate (HS), the major GAG of normal pancreas, becomes the minor GAG in pancreatic carcinoma without significant changes in the content and in molecular size. In all cases, the galactosaminoglycans (GalGAGs, i.e. CS and DS) derived from pancreatic carcinomas were of lower molecular size compared to those from normal pancreas. The results in this study indicate, for the first time, that human pancreatic carcinoma is characterized by highly increased amounts of HA and of a structurally altered CS.