Several pathologic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ocular neovascularization, cancer, or atherosclerosis are often associated with abnormal angiogenesis, which requires innovative biomaterial-based treatment options to control the activity of angiogenic factors. Here, we studied how sulfated hyaluronan (sHA) and oversulfated chondroitin sulfate derivatives as potential components of functional biomaterials modulate vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) signaling and endothelial cell activity in vitro. Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-3 (TIMP-3), an effective angiogenesis inhibitor, exerts its activity by competing with VEGF-A for binding to VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2). However, even though TIMP-3 and VEGF-A are known to interact with glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), the potential role and mechanism by which GAGs alter the VEGF-A/TIMP-3 regulated VEGFR-2 signaling remains unclear. Combining surface plasmon resonance, immunobiochemical analysis, and molecular modeling, we demonstrate the simultaneous binding of VEGF-A and TIMP-3 to sHA-coated surfaces and identified a novel mechanism by which sulfated GAG derivatives control angiogenesis: GAG derivatives block the binding of VEGF-A and TIMP-3 to VEGFR-2 thereby reducing their biological activity in a defined, sulfation-dependent manner. This effect was stronger for sulfated GAG derivatives than for native GAGs. The simultaneous formation of TIMP-3/sHA complexes partially rescues the sHA inhibited VEGF-A/VEGFR-2 signaling and endothelial cell activation. These results provide novel insights into the regulation of angiogenic factors by GAG derivatives and highlight the potential of sHA derivatives for the treatment of diseases associated with increased VEGF-A and VEGFR-2 levels.
Keywords: endothelial cells; glycosaminoglycans; hyaluronan/sulfated hyaluronan; tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-3; vascular endothelial growth factor-A.