Li JP, Kusche-Gullberg M
Int Rev Cell Mol Biol 325 (-) 215-273 [2016-04-13; online 2016-04-13]
Heparan sulfate (HS) proteoglycans (PGs) are ubiquitously expressed on cell surfaces and in the extracellular matrix of most animal tissues, having essential functions in development and homeostasis, as well as playing various roles in disease processes. The functions of HSPGs are mainly dependent on interactions between the HS-side chains with a variety of proteins including cytokines, growth factors, and their receptors. In a given HS polysaccharide, negatively charged sulfate and carboxylate groups are arranged in various types of domains, generated through strictly regulated biosynthetic reactions and with enormous potential for structural variability. The mode of HS-protein interactions is assessed through binding experiments using saccharides of defined composition in vitro, signaling assays in cell models where HS structures are manipulated, and targeted disruption of genes for biosynthetic enzymes in animals (mouse, zebrafish, Drosophila, and Caenorhabditis elegans) followed by phenotype analysis. Whereas some protein ligands appear to require strictly defined HS structure, others bind to variable saccharide domains without apparent dependence on distinct saccharide sequence. These findings raise intriguing questions concerning the functional significance of regulation in HS biosynthesis and the potential for development of therapeutics targeting HS-protein interactions.