Border patrol: Insights into the unique role of perlecan/heparan sulfate proteoglycan 2 at cell and tissue borders


The extracellular matrix proteoglycan (ECM) perlecan, also known as heparan sulfate proteoglycan 2 or HSPG2, is one of the largest (>ᅠ200ᅠnm) and oldest (>ᅠ550ᅠMᅠyears) extracellular matrix molecules. In vertebrates, perlecan's five-domain structure contains numerous independently folding modules with sequence similarities to other ECM proteins, all connected like cars into one long, diverse complex train following a unique N-terminal domain I decorated with three long glycosaminoglycan chains, and an additional glycosaminoglycan attachment site in the C-terminal domain V. In lower invertebrates, perlecan is not typically a proteoglycan, possessing the majority of the core protein modules, but lacking domain I where the attachment sites for glycosaminoglycan chains are located. This suggests that uniting the heparan sulfate binding growth factor functions of domain I and the core protein functions of the rest of the molecule in domains IIヨV occurred later in evolution for a new functional purpose. In this review, we surveyed several decades of pertinent literature to ask a fundamental question: Why did nature design this protein uniquely as an extraordinarily long multifunctional proteoglycan with a single promoter regulating expression, rather than separating these functions into individual proteins that could be independently regulated? We arrived at the conclusion that the concentration of perlecan at functional borders separating tissues and tissue layers is an ancient key function of the core protein. The addition of the heparan sulfate chains in domain I likely occurred as an additional means of binding the core protein to other ECM proteins in territorial matrices and basement membranes, and as a means to reserve growth factors in an on-site depot to assist with rapid repair of those borders when compromised, such as would occur during wounding. We propose a function for perlecan that extends its role from that of an extracellular scaffold, as we previously suggested, to that of a critical agent for establishing and patrolling tissue borders in complex tissues in metazoans. We also propose that understanding these unique functions of the individual portions of the perlecan molecule can provide new insights and tools for engineering of complex multi-layered tissues including providing the necessary cues for establishing neotissue borders.

Journal article

Farach-Carson, Mary C., Warren, Curtis R., Harrington, Daniel Anton, et al.. "Border patrol: Insights into the unique role of perlecan/heparan sulfate proteoglycan 2 at cell and tissue borders." Matrix Biology, 34, (2014) Elsevier: 64-79.

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