Heparan sulfate: decoding a dynamic multifunctional cell regulator

Trends Cell Biol. 2001 Feb;11(2):75-82. doi: 10.1016/s0962-8924(00)01897-3.


The heparan sulfates are a family of cell-surface and matrix polysaccharides with an incredible degree of structural diversity that are distributed widely in virtually all metazoan organisms. Recent genetic, biochemical and cell-biological studies have led to increased understanding of the biosynthetic mechanisms that produce these complex molecules, as well as their functional versatility in regulating protein activities. The dynamic expression of heparan sulfates with differing sugar sequences suggests a new concept in which the repertoire of sequences produced by a particular cell or tissue is designated its 'heparanome'. This review discusses recent developments and surveys emerging experimental strategies that hold promise for revealing the functional specificity and mechanisms of action of heparan sulfates as multifunctional cell regulators.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / physiology*
  • Heparin / analogs & derivatives
  • Heparin / physiology*
  • Heparitin Sulfate / chemistry
  • Heparitin Sulfate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / chemistry
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Protein Biosynthesis*
  • Proteoglycans / physiology*
  • Sequence Analysis / methods


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Isoenzymes
  • Polysaccharides
  • Proteoglycans
  • heparin proteoglycan
  • Heparin
  • Heparitin Sulfate