Heparan sulfate dependent cell signaling and associated pathophysiology Implications in tumorigenesis and embryogenesis

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) consist of a protein core to which several linear, negatively charged heparan sulfate (HS) chains are covalently attached. HSPGs are expressed on the cell surface and in the extra-cellular matrix (ECM) where they have diverse biological functions, for example co-receptor functions. The diverse functions of HS are linked to structural variability of the polysaccharide. In this thesis, I investigated HS structure-function relationship by using different cell and animal models of one HS-biosynthetic enzyme, glucuronyl C5-epimerase (Hsepi) and one enzyme responsible for post synthetic modification, heparanase.Deletion of Hsepi in mice resulted in neonatal lethality, with multiple organ defects, indicating the importance of HS in embryogenesis. Up-regulated expression of heparanase is found in most human tumor tissues, correlating with increased metastatic potential and decreased survival of cancer patients.In the first project, I focused on the effects of HS on cancer associated cell signaling and found that heparanase overexpression attenuated TGF-β1 stimulated Smad phosphorylation in tumor cells because of increased sulfation degree and turnover rate of HS.Heparanase role in cancer progression has led to clinical trials where inhibition of heparanase activity is currently being evaluated as a potential cancer treatment. Heparin, a HS-related polysaccharide, is being used to inhibit heparanase activity. In my second project, we studied the effect of low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) on cisplatin resistance of ovarian cancer cells (A2780cis). LMWH treatment of A2780cis cells reduced Wnt-activity in these cells and consequently reduce the drug resistance.In paper III, we continued exploring the HS/heparanase role in cancer by using heparanase overexpressing mice (Hpa-tg). We found Lewis Lung Carcinoma (LLC2) cells showed faster growth, bigger tumors and more metastasis in the Hpa-tg mice as compared to wild-type (WT) mice, because of suppressed antitumor immunity in the Hpa-tg mice.In paper IV and V, we studied the structure-function relationship of HS by using Hsepi-/- mice model. Hsepi-/- results in HS-chains lacking IdoA, which makes the chain rigid and consequently affects its co-receptor function. Skeletal malformation in Hsepi-/- mice, led us in paper IV to investigate bone morphogenic protein (BMP), an important signal molecule during embryogenesis and known to interact with HS. We found upregulation of a number of BMPs and expression of P-smad1/5/8, but reduced expression of inhibitory Smads and Gremlin1 in the Hsepi-/- MEF cells. The study indicated that the developmental defects in Hsepi mice could be contributed by a higher BMP signaling. In paper V we investigated the lung of the Hsepi-/- mice. The distal lung of 17.5 days old embryos remained populated by epithelial tubules, because of impaired differentiation of type I cells of the lungs. Potential mechanisms behind the failure of type I cell formation was identified to be reduced vascularization and a sustained signaling of Smad pathways.