Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) play critical roles in the development and adult physiology of all metazoan organisms. Most of the known molecular interactions of HSPGs are attributed to the structurally highly complex heparan sulfate (HS) glycans. However, whether a specific HSPG (such as syndecan) contains HS modifications that differ from another HSPG (such as glypican) has remained largely unresolved. Here, a neural model in C. elegans is used to demonstrate for the first time the relationship between specific HSPGs and HS modifications in a defined biological process in vivo. HSPGs are critical for the migration of hermaphrodite specific neurons (HSNs) as genetic elimination of multiple HSPGs leads to 80% defect of HSN migration. The effects of genetic elimination of HSPGs are additive, suggesting that multiple HSPGs, present in the migrating neuron and in the matrix, act in parallel to support neuron migration. Genetic analyses suggest that syndecan/sdn-1 and HS 6-O-sulfotransferase, hst-6, function in a linear signaling pathway and glypican/lon-2 and HS 2-O-sulfotransferase, hst-2, function together in a pathway that is parallel to sdn-1 and hst-6. These results suggest core protein specific HS modifications that are critical for HSN migration. In C. elegans, the core protein specificity of distinct HS modifications may be in part regulated at the level of tissue specific expression of genes encoding for HSPGs and HS modifying enzymes. Genetic analysis reveals that there is a delicate balance of HS modifications and eliminating one HS modifying enzyme in a compromised genetic background leads to significant changes in the overall phenotype. These findings are of importance with the view of HS as a critical regulator of cell signaling in normal development and disease.
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- Department of Biological and Geographical Sciences - Subject Leader Biological Sciences
- School of Applied Sciences
- Cellular and Molecular Models of Disease Centre - Member