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J Neurosci. 2012 Nov 7;32(45):15902-12. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6340-11.2012.

Differential sulfation remodelling of heparan sulfate by extracellular 6-O-sulfatases regulates fibroblast growth factor-induced boundary formation by glial cells: implications for glial cell transplantation.

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  • 1Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre, Glasgow G12 8TA, United Kingdom.


Previously, it has been shown that rat Schwann cells (SCs), but not olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), form a boundary with astrocytes, due to a SC-specific secreted factor. Here, we identify highly sulfated heparan sulfates (HSs) and fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) 1 and 9 as possible determinants of boundary formation induced by rat SCs. Disaccharide analysis of HS in SC-conditioned and rat OEC-conditioned media showed that SCs secrete more highly sulfated HS than OECs. The dependence of the boundary-forming activity on high levels of sulfation was confirmed using a panel of semisynthetic modified heparins with variable levels of sulfation. Furthermore, extracellular HS 6-O-endosulfatase enzymes, Sulf 1 and Sulf 2, were expressed at a significantly lower level by SCs compared with OECs, and siRNA reduction of Sulfs in OECs was, in itself, sufficient to induce boundary formation. This demonstrates a key role for remodelling (reduction) of HS 6-O-sulfation by OECs, compared with SCs, to suppress boundary formation. Furthermore, specific anti-FGF1 and anti-FGF9 antibodies disrupted SC-astrocyte boundary formation, supporting a role for an HS sulfation-dependent FGF signaling mechanism via FGF receptors on astrocytes. We propose a model in which FGF1 and FGF9 signaling is differentially modulated by patterns of glial cell HS sulfation, dependent on Sulf 1 and Sulf 2 expression, to control FGF receptor 3-IIIb-mediated astrocytic responses. Moreover, these data suggest manipulation of HS sulfation after CNS injury as a potential novel approach for therapeutic intervention in CNS repair.

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