An improved, convenient synthesis of 3-deoxy-D-xylo-hexose (3-deoxy-D-galactose) has been developed, and the chemical synthesis of a novel monosaccharide derivative, methyl (methyl 4-chloro-4-deoxy-beta-D-galactopyranosid)uronate (compound 10), is described. Using primary hepatocytes in culture, each was used to explore its effect on glycosaminoglycan (GAG) synthesis. In the absence of analogues ... [Show full abstract] hepatocytes synthesize primarily (92-95%) heparan sulphate. At 1 mM, 3-deoxy-D-galactose had little observable effect on either liver cell GAG or protein synthesis. At 10 mM and 20 mM, 3-deoxy-D-galactose reduced [3H]glucosamine and 35SO4 incorporation into hepatocyte cellular GAGs to, respectively, 75% and 60% of the control cells. This inhibition of GAG synthesis occurred without any effect on hepatocyte protein synthesis, indicating that 3-deoxy-D-galactose's effect on GAG synthesis is not mediated through an inhibition of proteoglycan core protein synthesis. Furthermore, GAGs in the presence of 20 mM of the analogue were significantly reduced in size, 17 kDa vs. 66 kDa in untreated cells. These results reflect either impaired cellular GAG chain elongation, and/or altered GAG chain degradation. Compound 10 exhibited a concentration-dependent inhibition of both hepatocyte cellular GAG and protein synthesis. At concentrations of 5, 10 and 20 mM, compound 10 inhibited GAG and protein synthesis by 20, 65 and 90%, respectively. Exogenous uridine was able to restore partially the inhibition of protein synthesis, but was unable to reverse the effect of compound 10 on GAG synthesis. These results show that part of the effect of compound 10 on GAG synthesis is not mediated by an inhibition of proteoglycan core protein synthesis. GAGs in the presence of compound 10 are half as large as those in the absence of this compound (33 and 66 kDa, respectively). These results again may reflect either impaired cellular GAG chain elongation and/or altered GAG chain degradation. Potential metabolic routes for each analogue's effect are presented.