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Biochemistry. 2006 Aug 29;45(34):10319-28.

Heparin-mediated conformational changes in fibronectin expose vascular endothelial growth factor binding sites.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


Regulation of angiogenesis involves interactions between vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and components of the extracellular matrix, including fibronectin and heparan sulfate. In the present study, we identified two classes of VEGF binding sites on fibronectin. One was constitutively available whereas the availability of the other was modulated by the conformational state of fibronectin. Atomic force microscopy studies revealed that heparin and hydrophilic substrates promoted the extended conformation of fibronectin, leading to increased VEGF binding. The ability of heparin to enhance VEGF binding to fibronectin was dependent on the chemical composition and chain length of heparin, since long (>22 saccharides) heparin chains with sulfation on the 6-O and N positions of glucosamine units were required for full activity. Treatment of the complex endothelial extracellular matrix with heparin also increased VEGF binding, suggesting that heparin/heparan sulfate might regulate VEGF interactions within the extracellular matrix by controlling the structure and organization of fibronectin matrices.

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