Regulated cell growth results from the biological balance between soluble growth-regulating factors, their receptors and the elicited signal cascade on the one hand side and from extracellular macromolecular components and their interplay with membrane receptors on the other side. Proteoglycans have recently been recognized not only to play a part in providing shape and biomechanical strength of organs and tissues, but also to exhibit direct and indirect cell signalling properties. In this review, we discuss the direct growth-regulating role of proteoglycans with special emphasis on the lectican family and on the family of small proteoglycans with leucine-rich repeats (SLRPs). Indirect actions of proteoglycans by modulation of growth factor activities and growth factor distribution are exemplified by discussing the TGF-beta-binding properties of SLRPs and the interactions of core proteins of matrix proteoglycans with other growth factors. It is emphasized that the modulatory role of proteoglycans on cell proliferation cannot be separated from their participation in tissue organization in general, thereby explaining the diverse and sometimes contradictory reports on the effects of proteoglycans on cell proliferation and differentiation.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.