Cellular interactions in neural development are influenced by various extracellular proteins, many of which bind glycosaminoglycans or proteoglycans. Precise functions of nervous system proteoglycans remain unknown, in part because neural proteoglycan composition is poorly understood. In this study, 25 putative proteoglycan core proteins were identified in subcellular fractions of rat brain. Levels of many of these varied considerably during development. Membrane-associated proteoglycans included two heparan sulfate proteoglycans (cores of 50 and 59 kd) that are covalently linked to glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol lipid, as well as several that appear to aggregate either with themselves or with copurifying proteins. These data indicate that brain proteoglycans exhibit the abundance, structural diversity, and developmental regulation that would be anticipated for molecules with diverse developmental functions.