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Biochem Pharmacol. 1997 Jul 1;54(1):149-57.

A basic compositional requirement of agents having heparin-like cell-modulating activities.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, U.S.A.


Heparin has been recognized as possessing a large variety of cell-modulating activities. Using compositionally simple, structurally rigid, and low molecular weight saccharide molecules (cyclodextrins), we demonstrated that these activities depend primarily on a single, gross compositional parameter: a minimum intramolecular density of neighboring anionic (sulfate) groups. This same critical parameter is shown to be involved in achieving cell-modulating behavior as diverse as angiogenesis, endothelial proliferation, inhibition of smooth muscle cell growth, and cell protection against virus invasion. Physical chemical evidence is presented that associates this property with multi-ionic complex formation between the clusters of anionic and cationic sites on the complexing partners. These observations revive early suggestions of the decisive role of electrostatic complexation capabilities of glycosaminoglycans like heparin; taken together with numerous observations on heparinoids and other agents reported in diverse specialized fields of cell biology and medicine, they provide evidence that molecular agents of critical anionic (sulfate) density (MACADs) represent a broad class of molecules that, in contrast to proteins, do not rely on structural detail for their cell biological activities, but function by ionic complexation with proteinic agents (e.g. growth factors), thereby modifying their structure-specific activities.

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