The tectorial membrane is an acellular connective tissue which plays an essential role in cochlear function. While a comparatively large amount of information is available on the collagen network of the tectorial membrane, studies on the biochemical nature of this highly hydrated matrix, which is composed of proteoglycans (PGs) and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), have been quite limited. Previous reports on the biochemical analysis of the tectorial membrane have failed to detect uronic acid, which is present in large amounts in all mammalian GAGs except keratan sulfate. Applying a colorimetric assay based on the binding of GAGs to cationic dye Safranin-0 in combination with enzymatic techniques, we were able to measure GAGs in the murine tectorial membrane. Approximately 0.3% uronic acid-containing GAGs (mainly in the form of chondroitin/dermatan sulfate) and 0.17% keratan sulfate were detected in the tectorial membrane (both on a wet weight basis). In addition, various types of electrophoresis revealed one large PG with a molecular mass similar to that of the large type cartilage PGs and three small PGs, containing chondroitin sulfate and keratan sulfate side chains, respectively. Judging by coelution of standards, one of the small PGs seemed to correspond to fibromodulin, which has at least one keratan sulfate side chain, and binds to type I and type II collagen to regulate collagen organization in tissues. Our results suggest: (1) Donnan equilibrium is established in the tectorial membrane because sulfated GAGs are highly negatively charged and consequently bring about an influx of large amounts of water and cations into the matrix. (2) The tectorial membrane is highly organized by collagen as well as large and small PGs, especially in the direction in which major mechanical force is exerted. Therefore, the tectorial membrane is assumed to maintain the exact alignment of insertion of tips of stereocillia so that they are not bent in the resting state.