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ACS Chem Biol. 2018 Oct 19;13(10):2880-2887. doi: 10.1021/acschembio.8b00436. Epub 2018 Sep 14.

Embryonic Stem Cell Engineering with a Glycomimetic FGF2/BMP4 Co-Receptor Drives Mesodermal Differentiation in a Three-Dimensional Culture.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry , University of California, San Diego , 9500 Gilman Drive #0358 , La Jolla , California 92093-0358 , United States.


Cell surface glycans, such as heparan sulfate (HS), are increasingly identified as co-regulators of growth factor signaling in early embryonic development; therefore, chemical tailoring of HS activity within the cellular glycocalyx of stem cells offers an opportunity to control their differentiation. The growth factors FGF2 and BMP4 are involved in mediating the exit of murine embryonic stem cells (mESCs) from their pluripotent state and their differentiation toward mesodermal cell types, respectively. Here, we report a method for remodeling the glycocalyx of mutant Ext1-/- mESCs with defective biosynthesis of HS to drive their mesodermal differentiation in an embryoid body culture. Lipid-functionalized synthetic HS-mimetic glycopolymers with affinity for both FGF2 and BMP4 were introduced into the plasma membrane of Ext1-/- mESCs, where they acted as functional co-receptors of these growth factors and facilitated signal transduction through associated MAPK and Smad signaling pathways. We demonstrate that these materials can be employed to remodel Ext1-/- mESCs within three-dimensional embryoid body structures, providing enhanced association of BMP4 at the cell surface and driving mesodermal differentiation. As a more complete understanding of the function of HS in regulating development continues to emerge, this simple glycocalyx engineering method is poised to enable precise control over growth factor signaling activity and outcomes of differentiation in stem cells.

[Available on 2019-10-19]

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