Heparan sulfate proteoglycan binding promotes APRIL-induced tumor cell proliferation

Cell Death Differ. 2005 Jun;12(6):637-48. doi: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4401647.


APRIL, a proliferation-inducing ligand, is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family that is expressed by various types of tumors and influences their growth in vitro and in vivo. Two receptors, transmembrane activator and cyclophilin ligand interactor (TACI) and B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA), bind APRIL, but neither is essential for the tumor-promoting effects, suggesting that a third receptor exists. Here, we report that APRIL specifically binds to heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPG) on the surface of tumor cells. This binding is mediated by the heparin sulfate side chains and can be inhibited by heparin. Importantly, BCMA and HSPG do not compete, but can bind APRIL simultaneously, suggesting that different regions in APRIL are critical for either interaction. In agreement, mutation of three lysines in a putative heparin sulfate-binding motif, which is not part of the TNF fold, destroys interaction with HSPG, while binding to BCMA is unaffected. Finally, whereas interaction of APRIL with HSPG does not influence APRIL-induced proliferation of T cells, it is crucial for its tumor growth-promoting activities. We therefore conclude that either HSPG serve as a receptor for APRIL or that HSPG binding allows APRIL to interact with a receptor that promotes tumor growth.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Ligand Superfamily Member 13
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / chemistry
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans
  • Membrane Proteins
  • TNFSF13 protein, human
  • Tnfsf13 protein, mouse
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Ligand Superfamily Member 13
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha