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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2009 Sep;1(3):a002493. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a002493.

Shaping morphogen gradients by proteoglycans.

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  • 1Division of Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229, USA.


During development, secreted morphogens such as Wnt, Hedgehog (Hh), and BMP emit from their producing cells in a morphogenetic field, and specify different cell fates in a direct concentration-dependent manner. Understanding how morphogens form their concentration gradients to pattern tissues has been a central issue in developmental biology. Various experimental studies from Drosophila have led to several models to explain the formation of morphogen gradients. Over the past decade, one of the main findings in this field is the characterization of heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) as an essential regulator for morphogen gradient formation. Genetic and cell biological studies have showed that HSPGs can regulate morphogen activities at various steps including control of morphogen movement, signaling, and intracellular trafficking. Here, we review these data, highlighting recent findings that reveal mechanistic roles of HSPGs in controlling morphogen gradient formation.

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