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Biochimie. 2001 Aug;83(8):811-7.

Heparan sulfate: anchor for viral intruders?

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  • 1Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, The Biomedical Center, Uppsala University, Box 582, 75 123 Uppsala, Sweden.


Heparan sulfates (HS) are ubiquitous, polyanionic carbohydrate chains linked to core proteins in cell membranes and extracellular matrices of all eukaryotes. Due to the complex nature of the HS-biosynthesis, a wealth of different structures are produced. These seem to have a well defined distribution in different tissues and cells throughout development. Binding of endogenous proteins with different functional properties such as growth factors, adhesion molecules or enzymes, is one of the functions of HS. Besides interaction with endogenous factors, glycosaminoglycans (GAG) and especially HS have also been demonstrated to function as receptors for a number of different pathogens. What roles may HS play in the pathogenesis and tropism of different intruders like parasites or viruses? What implications does binding of viruses to HS have for the development of drugs or the application of viral vectors for gene targeting? In this review an attempt is made to collect our present knowledge on viral usage of HS and the implications that follow.

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