In vertebrates, there are two related genes, Sulf1 and Sulf2 that code for extracellular heparan sulphate 6-0-endosulphatases. These enzymes act to post-synthetically remodel heparan sulphate chains, generating structural diversity of cell surface HSPGs; this activity provides an important mechanism to modulate developmental cell signalling. Here we describe the expression and activity of Xenopus tropicalis Sulf2 (XtSulf2), which like XtSulf1, can act extracellularly to inhibit BMP4 and FGF4 signalling. Consistent with its discrete expression in regions of the anterior developing nervous system, we found that overexpression of XtSulf2 disrupts the expression of a set of neural markers and inhibits the migration of the neural crest. Using a combination of grafting experiments and antisense morpholino based knockdown studies in Xenopus embryos, we demonstrate that endogenous XtSulf1 and XtSulf2 play an important role during cranial neural crest cell migration in vivo.
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