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Dev Biol. 2011 Aug 1;356(1):19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 May 11.

Growth factor-dependent branching of the ureteric bud is modulated by selective 6-O sulfation of heparan sulfate.

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Department of Medicine (Division of Nephrology and Hypertension), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.


Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) are found in the basement membrane and at the cell-surface where they modulate the binding and activity of a variety of growth factors and other molecules. Most of the functions of HSPGs are mediated by the variable sulfated glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chains attached to a core protein. Sulfation of the GAG chain is key as evidenced by the renal agenesis phenotype in mice deficient in the HS biosynthetic enzyme, heparan sulfate 2-O sulfotransferase (Hs2st; an enzyme which catalyzes the 2-O-sulfation of uronic acids in heparan sulfate). We have recently demonstrated that this phenotype is likely due to a defect in induction of the metanephric mesenchyme (MM), which along with the ureteric bud (UB), is responsible for the mutually inductive interactions in the developing kidney (Shah et al., 2010). Here, we sought to elucidate the role of variable HS sulfation in UB branching morphogenesis, particularly the role of 6-O sulfation. Endogenous HS was localized along the length of the UB suggesting a role in limiting growth factors and other molecules to specific regions of the UB. Treatment of cultures of whole embryonic kidney with variably desulfated heparin compounds indicated a requirement of 6O-sulfation in the growth and branching of the UB. In support of this notion, branching morphogenesis of the isolated UB was found to be more sensitive to the HS 6-O sulfation modification when compared to the 2-O sulfation modification. In addition, a variety of known UB branching morphogens (i.e., pleiotrophin, heregulin, FGF1 and GDNF) were found to have a higher affinity for 6-O sulfated heparin providing additional support for the notion that this HS modification is important for robust UB branching morphogenesis. Taken together with earlier studies, these findings suggest a general mechanism for spatio-temporal HS regulation of growth factor activity along the branching UB and in the developing MM and support the view that specific growth factor-HSPG interactions establish morphogen gradients and function as developmental switches during the stages of epithelial organogenesis (Shah et al., 2004).

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