To examine the detailed composition of glycosaminoglycans during bovine ovarian follicular development and atresia, the specialized stromal theca layers were separated from the stratified epithelial granulosa cells of healthy (n=6) and atretic (n=6) follicles in each of three size ranges: small (3-5mm), medium (6-9mm) and large (10mm or more) (n=29 animals). Fluorophore-assisted carbohydrate electrophoresis analyses (on a per cell basis) and immunohistochemistry (n=14) were undertaken. We identified the major disaccharides in thecal layers and the membrana granulosa as chondroitin sulfate-derived uronic acid with 4-sulfated N-acetylgalactosamine and uronic acid with 6-sulfated N-acetylgalactosamine and the heparan sulfate-derived Deltauronic acid with N-acetlyglucosamine, with elevated levels in the thecal layers. Increasing follicle size and atresia was associated with increased levels of some disaccharides. We concluded that versican contains 4-sulfated N-acetylgalactosamine and it is the predominant 4-sulfated N-acetylgalactosamine proteoglycan in antral follicles. At least one other non- or 6-sulfated N-acetylgalactosamine proteoglycan(s), which is not decorin or an inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor family member, is present in bovine antral follicles and associated with hitherto unknown groups of cells around some larger blood vessels. These areas stained positively for chondroitin/dermatan sulfate epitopes [antibodies 7D4, 3C5, and 4C3], similar to stem cell niches observed in other tissues. The sulfation pattern of heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans appears uniform across follicles of different sizes and in healthy and atretic follicles. The heparan sulfate products detected in the follicles are likely to be associated with perlecan, collagen XVIII or betaglycan.