Proteoglycans (PGs) are a diverse family of proteins that consist of one or more glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chains, covalently linked to a core protein. PGs are major components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and play critical roles in development, normal function and damage-response of the central nervous system (CNS). GAGs are classified based on their disaccharide subunits, into the following major groups: chondroitin sulfate (CS), heparan sulfate (HS), heparin (HEP), dermatan sulfate (DS), keratan sulfate (KS) and hyaluronic acid (HA). All except HA are modified by sulfation, giving GAG chains specific charged structures and binding properties. While significant neuroscience research has focused on the role of one PG family member, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG), there is ample evidence in support of a role for the other PGs in regulating CNS function in normal and pathological conditions. This review discusses the role of all the identified PG family members (CS, HS, HEP, DS, KS and HA) in normal CNS function and in the context of pathology. Understanding the pleiotropic roles of these molecules in the CNS may open the door to novel therapeutic strategies for a number of neurological conditions.
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