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J Biol Chem. 2003 May 30;278(22):19808-14. Epub 2003 Mar 22.

Alteration of polysaccharide size distribution of a vertebrate hyaluronan synthase by mutation.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oklahoma Center for Medical Glycobiology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City 73104, USA.


Hyaluronan (HA) is a nonsulfated glycosaminoglycan that has long been known to play structural roles in vertebrates. Recently, it has become increasingly obvious that this linear polysaccharide has many more uses than simply scaffolding or space filler. HA has been found to be involved in development, cell signaling, cell motility, and metastasis. These roles are often dictated by the length of the HA polymer, which can vary from a few to about 10,000 sugar residues in length. Three distinct isoforms of HA synthase exist in mammals. It has been shown previously by others that each isoform produces HA that differs in size distribution, but the regulatory mechanism is not yet known. Mutations have been described that alter the size distribution of the HA produced by the streptococcal HA synthases. We show that by mutating one particular amino acid residue of a vertebrate HA synthase, depending on the introduced side chain, the size of HA produced can be either reduced or increased. We postulate that several cysteine residues and a serine residue may be involved in binding directly or indirectly to the nascent HA chain. These data support the theory that the relative strength of the interaction between the catalyst and the polymer may be a major factor in HA size control.

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