The biochemical composition and biosynthetic activity of Xenopus notochord were examined and compared with those of chick and mouse notochord. The notochords of all three species contain type-II collagen, and the notochords of Xenopus and chick synthesize a soluble glycoprotein with a molecular mass of 86 kilodaltons (kd). Mouse embryos were not tested for this molecule, because their notochords are too small to be dissected out. Most interestingly, Xenopus and chick notochords share a keratan-sulphate-containing proteoglycan which appears to be absent from mouse notochord. The presence or absence of keratan sulphate in the notochords of the different species reflects its presence or absence in cartilage. Since one role of the notochord in vivo is to stimulate chondrogenesis in the sclerotomes of the somites, this result provides support for the view that cells responding to the extracellular matrix produced by one tissue do so by increasing their production of the same matrix components.