Xiong A, Kundu S, Forsberg-Nilsson K
FEBS J. 281 (22) 4993-5008 [2014-11-00; online 2014-11-06]
Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) are the main components of the extracellular matrix, where they interact with a large number of physiologically important macromolecules. The sulfation pattern of heparan sulfate (HS) chains determines the interaction potential of the proteoglycans. Enzymes of the biosynthetic and degradation pathways for HS chains are thus important regulators in processes ranging from embryonic development to tissue homeostasis, but also for tumor development. Formation of the nervous system is also critically dependent on intact HSPGs, and several studies have outlined the role of HS in neural induction from embryonic stem cells. High-grade glioma is the most common malignant primary brain tumor among adults, and the outcome is poor. Neural stem cells and glioma stem cells have several common traits, such as sustained proliferation and a highly efficient migratory capacity in the brain. There are also similarities between the neurogenic niche where adult neural stem cells reside, and the tumorigenic niche. These include interactions with the extracellular matrix, and many of the matrix components are deregulated in glioma, e.g. HSPGs and enzymes implementing the biosynthesis and modification of HS. In this article, we will present how HS-regulated pathways are involved in neural differentiation, and discuss their impact on brain development. We will also review and critically discuss the important role of structural modifications of HS in glioma growth and invasion. We propose that targeting invasive mechanisms of glioma cells through modulation of HS structure and HS-mediated pathways may be an attractive alternative to other therapeutic attempts, which so far have only marginally increased survival for glioma patients.