Leukocyte Adhesion: Reconceptualizing Chemokine Presentation by Glycosaminoglycans

Trends Immunol. 2019 Jun;40(6):472-481. doi: 10.1016/j.it.2019.03.009. Epub 2019 Apr 18.


Recruitment of immune cells from the vasculature relies on the presentation of glycosaminoglycan-bound chemokines on the luminal side of vascular endothelial cells. However, the current model of chemokine-glycosaminoglycan interactions, and its implications for receptor interactions, remains poorly developed. We propose a refined 'Chemokine Cloud' model, arguing that chemokines are not presented to leukocytes bound to glycosaminoglycans, but rather, in solution while sequestered within the hydrated glycocalyx. We posit that glycosaminoglycans provide an immobilized chemokine depot maintaining a 'cloud' of 'solution-phase' chemokines within the glycocalyx, and that it is this soluble form of any given chemokine that interacts with leukocyte-bound receptors. Our proposition clarifies certain anomalies associated with the current model of chemokine-glycosaminoglycan interactions, with implications for the design of blockers of chemokine function.

Keywords: chemokines; glycocalyx; glycosaminoglycans; receptors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion* / physiology
  • Chemokines / chemistry
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes / pathology
  • Models, Biological
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Receptors, Chemokine / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Chemokines
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Receptors, Chemokine