Heparan sulfate differences in rheumatoid arthritis versus healthy sera

Matrix Biol. 2014 Nov;40:54-61. doi: 10.1016/j.matbio.2014.08.016. Epub 2014 Sep 11.


Heparan sulfate (HS) is a complex and highly variable polysaccharide, expressed ubiquitously on the cell surface as HS proteoglycans (HSPGs), and found in the extracellular matrix as free HS fragments. Its heterogeneity due to various acetylation and sulfation patterns endows a multitude of functions. In animal tissues, HS interacts with a wide range of proteins to mediate numerous biological activities; given its multiple roles in inflammation processes, characterization of HS in human serum has significant potential for elucidating disease mechanisms. Historically, investigation of HS was limited by its low concentration in human serum, together with the complexity of the serum matrix. In this study, we used a modified mass spectrometry method to examine HS disaccharide profiles in the serum of 50 women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and compared our results to 51 sera from healthy women. Using various purification methods and online LC-MS/MS, we discovered statistically significant differences in the sulfation and acetylation patterns between populations. Since early diagnosis of RA is considered important in decelerating the disease's progression, identification of specific biomolecule characterizations may provide crucial information towards developing new therapies for suppressing the disease in its early stages. This is the first report of potential glycosaminoglycan biomarkers for RA found in human sera, while acknowledging the obvious fact that a larger population set, and more stringent collection parameters, will need to be investigated in the future.

Keywords: 2-O-sulfotransferase; 6-O-sulfotransferase; Glycosaminoglycan; Heparan sulfate; Rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Disaccharides / chemistry
  • Female
  • Glycosaminoglycans / blood
  • Heparitin Sulfate / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • ROC Curve
  • Serum / chemistry*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Biomarkers
  • Disaccharides
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Heparitin Sulfate