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Turkey intestine as a commercial source of heparin? Comparative structural studies of intestinal avian and mammalian glycosaminoglycans.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt.


Heparin is a glycosaminoglycan (GAG) that is extracted primarily from porcine intestinal tissues and is widely used as a clinical anticoagulant. It is biosynthesized as a proteoglycan and stored exclusively in mast cells and is partially degraded to peptidoglycan and GAG on immunologically activated mast cell degranulation. In contrast, the structurally related heparan sulfate, is the polysaccharide portion of a ubiquitous proteoglycan, localized on cell surface and in the extracellular matrix of all animal tissues. Heparin and heparan sulfate are made in the Golgi through a similar biosynthetic pathway. The current study was undertaken in a search for alternative, non-mammalian, sources of anticoagulant heparin. The heparin/heparan sulfate family of GAGs, prepared and purified from turkey intestine, were assayed for anticoagulant activity and structurally characterized. The resulting GAGs displayed a very low anticoagulant activity when compared to those obtained from porcine intestine using an identical procedure. Structural characterization studies clearly demonstrate that heparan sulfate is the major GAG in the turkey intestine. This observation is rationalized based on differences in the mammalian and avian coagulation and immune systems.

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