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J Biol Chem. 2008 Feb 8;283(6):3594-606. Epub 2007 Nov 16.

Heparan sulfate regulates self-renewal and pluripotency of embryonic stem cells.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cell Biology, Department of Bioinformatics, Faculty of Engineering, Soka University, 1-236 Tangi-cho, Hachioji, Tokyo 192-8577, Japan.


Embryonic stem (ES) cell self-renewal and pluripotency are maintained by several signaling cascades and by expression of intrinsic factors, such as Oct3/4 and Nanog. The signaling cascades are activated by extrinsic factors, such as leukemia inhibitory factor, bone morphogenic protein, and Wnt. However, the mechanism that regulates extrinsic signaling in ES cells is unknown. Heparan sulfate (HS) chains are ubiquitously present as the cell surface proteoglycans and are known to play crucial roles in regulating several signaling pathways. Here we investigated whether HS chains on ES cells are involved in regulating signaling pathways that are important for the maintenance of ES cells. RNA interference-mediated knockdown of HS chain elongation inhibited mouse ES cell self-renewal and induced spontaneous differentiation of the cells into extraembryonic endoderm. Furthermore, autocrine/paracrine Wnt/beta-catenin signaling through HS chains was found to be required for the regulation of Nanog expression. We propose that HS chains are important for the extrinsic signaling required for mouse ES cell self-renewal and pluripotency.

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