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Arch Biochem Biophys. 1997 Jul 1;343(1):92-100.

Pattern and spacing of basic amino acids in heparin binding sites.

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Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, University of Iowa, Iowa City 52242, USA.


Glycosaminoglycan (GAG)-protein interactions regulate a myriad of physiologic and pathologic processes, yet an understanding of how these molecules interact is lacking. The role of the pattern and spacing of basic amino acids (arginine (R) and lysine (K)) in heparin binding sites was investigated using peptide analogs as well as by examining known heparin binding sites. Peptides having the general structure R(n)W (n = 3-9, where tyrosine (W) was added for peptide detection) were synthesized and their interaction with heparin was determined by isothermal titration calorimetry. Binding affinity increased with increasing number of R residues. A 9-mer of R (R9W) bound as tightly to heparin as acidic fibroblast growth factor under physiologic conditions. Despite their high affinity for heparin, long stretches of basic amino acids are uncommon in heparin binding proteins. Known heparin binding sites most commonly contain single isolated basic amino acids separated by one nonbasic amino acid. Peptides having the structure, H3CCONH-GRRG(m)RRG(5-m)-CONH2 (denoted as the RRG(m)RR peptide series) and H3CCONH-GRRRG(m)RG(5-m)-CONH2 (denoted as the RRRG(m)R peptide series), where m = 0-5, were synthesized to test the hypothesis that the spacing of basic amino acids in heparin binding sites is optimally arranged to interact with different GAGs. The peptides, in both the -RRG(m)RR- and -RRRG(m)R- peptide series, when m = 0, bound most tightly with heparin, as measured by affinity chromatography. In contrast, the -RRG(m)RR-peptide series interacted most tightly with heparan sulfate when m = 0 or 1, whereas the -RRRG(m)R- peptide series bound tightest when m = 3. These results are consistent with our understanding of heparin and heparan sulfate structure. A highly sulfated GAG, such as heparin, interacts most tightly with peptides (or peptide sequences within proteins) containing a complementary binding site of high positive charge density. Heparan sulfate, having fewer and more highly spaced negatively charged groups, interacts most tightly with a complementary site on a peptide (or peptide sequences with proteins) that has more widely spaced cationic residues.

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