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J Biol Chem. 1994 Apr 22;269(16):12304-9.

Core protein structure and sequence determine the site and presence of heparan sulfate and chondroitin sulfate on syndecan-1.

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Joint Program in Neonatology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Most proteoglycans bear either chondroitin sulfate or heparan sulfate chains linked to serine residues at Ser-Gly attachment sites on the core protein. However, only a fraction of proteins with Ser-Gly sites exhibit glycosaminoglycan chains. A variable proportion of these sites may be glycanated, and an unknown mechanism distinguishes whether these sites are for chondroitin sulfate or heparan sulfate. To evaluate the core protein features that determine whether and where chondroitin sulfate or heparan sulfate will be linked, we have studied mouse syndecan-1, a transmembrane proteoglycan that is invariably glycanated and can contain both chondroitin sulfate and heparan sulfate chains. The extracellular domain of the syndecan-1 core protein contains five Ser-Gly sites, three clustered near its N terminus and two adjacent to the transmembrane domain near its C terminus. We have established the distribution of glycosaminoglycans on these attachment clusters. In contrast to the C-terminal cluster, the N-terminal cluster was always glycanated, suggesting that this domain of the core protein contains sequences responsible for the invariable attachment of glycosaminoglycan chains. Solely chondroitin sulfate was found on the C-terminal cluster. This cluster contains the sequences EGSGE and ETSGE, both estimated to be on the protein surface in a hydrophilic environment. Heparan sulfate was found solely on the N-terminal cluster, which also bears some chondroitin sulfate. This cluster contains the sequences FSGSGTG and DGSGD, the former estimated to be in a hydrophobic pocket and the latter, similar to the sequence on the C-terminal cluster, in an exposed hydrophilic region. This glycosaminoglycan distribution was identical on mouse syndecan-1 produced by either mouse epithelial (NMuMG) or hamster mesenchymal (CHO) cells, suggesting that site-specific attachment of glycosaminoglycans is independent of cell type. These results implicate a cellular mechanism that distinguishes among the potential sites and attaches the correct glycosaminoglycan type unambiguously. Thus, structural elements of the core protein other than the Ser-Gly attachment sites determine if a site will be glycanated and, if so, whether with chondroitin sulfate or heparan sulfate.

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