The interaction between proteoglycan and link protein extracted from bovine articular cartilage (15-18-month-old animals) was investigated in 0.5 M-guanidinium chloride. The proteoglycans, radiolabelled as the aggregate (A1 fraction), were fractionated by two 'dissociative' density-gradient centrifugations (A1D1D1) followed by a rate-zonal centrifugation (S1) to yield an A1D1D1S1 preparation. At least 65% of these proteoglycans were able to bind to hyaluronate, but only 52% were able to bind to link protein as assessed by chromatography on Sepharose CL-2B. Over 80% of the [3H]link-protein preparation, radiolabelled as the aggregate, was able to interact with proteoglycan as assessed by chromatography on Sepharose CL-4B. Equilibrium-boundary-centrifugation studies performed at low link-protein concentrations (2.42 x 10(-9) M-5.93 x 10(-8) M) were analysed by Scatchard-type plots and indicated a Kd of 1.5 x 10(-8) M and a stoichiometry, n = 0.56, i.e. approx. 56% of those proteoglycans capable of binding to link protein had a strong site for link protein if a 1:1 stoichiometry were assumed. However, experiments performed at higher link-protein concentrations (3.5 x 10(-7) M and 8 x 10(-7) M) yielded stoichiometry values which were link-protein-concentration-dependent. Non-equilibrium binding studies using chromatography on Sepharose CL-2B and rate-zonal centrifugation yielded apparent stoichiometries between 0.6 and 7.5 link-protein molecules per proteoglycan monomer as a function of increasing link-protein concentration. It was concluded that a proportion of the proteoglycan molecules had a strong site for binding a single link protein (Kd 1.5 x 10(-8) M) and that at high link-protein concentrations a weaker, open-ended, process of link-protein self-association nucleated upon the strong link-protein-proteoglycan complex occurred. Hyaluronate oligosaccharides appeared to abolish a proportion of this self-association (as observed by Bonnet, Dunham & Hardingham [(1985) Biochem. J. 228, 77-85] in a study of link-protein-hyaluronate-oligosaccharide interactions) so as to leave a link protein:proteoglycan stoichiometry of 2. It is not clear whether this second link-protein molecule binds directly to the proteoglycan or to the first link protein.