Heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycan (HSG) sugars are found on the cell surface and in the extracellular matrix that surrounds cells, and have roles that are still unknown. In January 22 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dongfang Liu and colleagues from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, US, show that the HSG coat present on tumor cells contains bioactive sequences that influence tumor-cell growth and metastasis.

Liu et al. injected the enzyme heparinase I or the heparan sulfate fragment produced by this digestion, into mice with tumors. They found that this promoted tumor growth, while heparinase III or its digestion product dramatically inhibited growth. The two treatments influenced tumor metastasis and angiogenesis in similar ways. In addition, they showed that the balance between these distinct polysaccharide populations regulates specific intracellular signal-transduction pathways (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2002, 99:568-573).

"These findings suggest that the sugar coat worn...

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