Proteoglycan Chemical Diversity Drives Multifunctional Cell Regulation and Therapeutics

Chem Rev. 2018 Sep 26;118(18):9152-9232. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.8b00354. Epub 2018 Sep 11.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) constitutes a highly dynamic three-dimensional structural network comprised of macromolecules, such as proteoglycans/glycosaminoglycans (PGs/GAGs), collagens, laminins, fibronectin, elastin, other glycoproteins and proteinases. In recent years, the field of PGs has expanded rapidly. Due to their high structural complexity and heterogeneity, PGs mediate several homeostatic and pathological processes. PGs consist of a protein core and one or more covalently attached GAG chains, which provide the protein cores with the ability to interact with several proteins. The GAG building blocks of PGs significantly influence the chemical and functional properties of PGs. The primary goal of this comprehensive review is to summarize major achievements and paradigm-shifting discoveries made on the PG/GAG chemistry-biology axis, focusing on structural variability, structure-function relationships, metabolic, molecular, and epigenetic mechanisms underlying their synthesis. Recent insights related to exosome biogenesis, degradation, and cell signaling, their status as diagnostic tools and potential pharmacological targets in diseases as well as current applications in nanotechnology and biotechnology are addressed. Moreover, issues related to docking studies, molecular modeling, GAG/PG interaction networks, and their integration are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Glycosaminoglycans / chemistry*
  • Glycosaminoglycans / genetics
  • Glycosaminoglycans / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Protein Domains
  • Proteoglycans / chemistry*
  • Proteoglycans / genetics
  • Proteoglycans / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Proteoglycans