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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 8;6(2):e16689. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016689.

Glycomics analysis of mammalian heparan sulfates modified by the human extracellular sulfatase HSulf2.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Center for Biomedical Mass Spectrometry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.



The Sulfs are a family of endosulfatases that selectively modify the 6O-sulfation state of cell-surface heparan sulfate (HS) molecules. Sulfs serve as modulators of cell-signaling events because the changes they induce alter the cell surface co-receptor functions of HS chains. A variety of studies have been aimed at understanding how Sulfs modify HS structure, and many of these studies utilize Sulf knockout cell lines as the source for the HS used in the experiments. However, genetic manipulation of Sulfs has been shown to alter the expression levels of HS biosynthetic enzymes, and in these cases an assessment of the fine structural changes induced solely by Sulf enzymatic activity is not possible. Therefore, the present work aims to extend the understanding of substrate specificities of HSulf2 using in vitro experiments to compare HSulf2 activities on HS from different organ tissues.


To further the understanding of Sulf enzymatic activity, we conducted in vitro experiments where a variety of mammalian HS substrates were modified by recombinant human Sulf2 (HSulf2). Subsequent to treatment with HSulf2, the HS samples were exhaustively depolymerized and analyzed using size-exclusion liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (SEC-LC/MS). We found that HSulf2 activity was highly dependent on the structural features of the HS substrate. Additionally, we characterized, for the first time, the activity of HSulf2 on the non-reducing end (NRE) of HS chains. The results indicate that the action pattern of HSulf2 at the NRE is different compared to internally within the HS chain.


The results of the present study indicate that the activity of Sulfs is dependent on the unique structural features of the HS populations that they edit. The activity of HSulf2 at HS NREs implicates the Sulfs as key regulators of this region of the chains, and concomitantly, the protein-binding events that occur there.

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