FGFs, heparan sulfate and FGFRs: complex interactions essential for development

Bioessays. 2000 Feb;22(2):108-12. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(200002)22:2<108::AID-BIES2>3.0.CO;2-M.


Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) comprise a large family of developmental and physiological signaling molecules. All FGFs have a high affinity for the glycosaminoglycan heparin and for cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycans. A large body of biochemical and cellular evidence points to a direct role for heparin/heparan sulfate in the formation of an active FGF/FGF receptor signaling complex. However, until recently there has been no direct demonstration that heparan is required for the biological activity of FGF in a developmental system in vivo. A recent paper by Lin et al.(1) has broken through this barrier to demonstrate that heparan sulfate is essential for FGF function during Drosophila development. The establishment of a role for heparan sulfate in FGFR activation in vivo suggests that tissue-specific differences in the structure of heparan may modulate the activity of FGF. BioEssays 22:108-112, 2000.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / growth & development
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Heparin / physiology
  • Heparitin Sulfate / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Fibroblast Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Receptors, Fibroblast Growth Factor
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • Heparin
  • Heparitin Sulfate