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Braz J Med Biol Res. 1999 May;32(5):529-38.

Heparan sulfates and heparins: similar compounds performing the same functions in vertebrates and invertebrates?

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brasil.


The distribution and structure of heparan sulfate and heparin are briefly reviewed. Heparan sulfate is a ubiquitous compound of animal cells whose structure has been maintained throughout evolution, showing an enormous variability regarding the relative amounts of its disaccharide units. Heparin, on the other hand, is present only in a few tissues and species of the animal kingdom and in the form of granules inside organelles in the cytoplasm of special cells. Thus, the distribution as well as the main structural features of the molecule, including its main disaccharide unit, have been maintained through evolution. These and other studies led to the proposal that heparan sulfate may be involved in the cell-cell recognition phenomena and control of cell growth, whereas heparin may be involved in defense mechanisms against bacteria and other foreign materials. All indications obtained thus far suggest that these molecules perform the same functions in vertebrates and invertebrates.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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