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J Biol Chem. 1995 Nov 3;270(44):26404-10.

Self-association of N-syndecan (syndecan-3) core protein is mediated by a novel structural motif in the transmembrane domain and ectodomain flanking region.

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Sigfried and Janet Weis Center for Research, Geisinger Clinic, Danville, Pennsylvania 17822-2613, USA.


We expressed domains of the core protein of the transmembrane heparan sulfate proteoglycan N-syndecan (syndecan-3) either individually or as maltose-binding protein fusion proteins. Biochemical characterization of the purified proteins revealed that some of them were capable of self-association and formed stable, noncovalent multimeric complexes. The formation of N-syndecan core protein complexes was also demonstrated in mammalian cells by in situ cross-linking. Identification of structural motifs in the core protein of N-syndecan responsible for the formation of these complexes was accomplished by analyzing a series of constructs comprising different regions of the protein as well as site-directed mutants. Self-association was assayed by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, glutaraldehyde cross-linking, and size-exclusion high pressure liquid chromatography. Our results indicated that (i) the transmembrane domain of the N-syndecan core protein was required but not sufficient for the formation of stable complexes; (ii) the minimal amino acid sequence that conferred the ability of the N-syndecan core protein to form multimeric complexes included the last four amino acids (ERKE) of the extracellular domain plus the transmembrane domain; (iii) point mutations that changed the basic residues in this sequence to alanine residues either partially or completely abolished the ability of the N-syndecan core protein to form complexes; and (iv) replacement of conserved glycine residues in the transmembrane domain with leucines abolished complex formation. This property is similar to the oligomerization activity of other transmembrane receptors and suggests that regulated self-association may be important for the biological activity of transmembrane proteoglycans.

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