May 4, 2011
Researchers Show Heparan Sulfate Adjusts Functions Of Growth Factor Proteins
When the human genome project produced a map of human genes, the number of genes in humans turned out to be relatively small, approximately the same number as in primitive nematode worms. The difference in complexity between human and primitive organisms results from the ways in which the functions of genes are elaborated, rather from just the number of genes. Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers are showing how heparan sulfate, a carbohydrate that is expressed on the surface of all human cells, adjusts the functions of growth factor proteins. These findings currently appear on-line in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Each cell responds to signals in the form of growth factor proteins that bind to cell surfaces. "The heparan sulfate on each cell helps the growth factor proteins connect with a growth factor receptor that is necessary for the signaling to occur," explained Joseph Zaia, PhD, an associate professor of Biochemistry at BUSM. Cells can change the way they respond to growth factors by altering the structure of the heparan sulfate on their surfaces.
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