Heparan Sulfate-Editing Extracellular Sulfatases Enhance VEGF Bioavailability for Ischemic Heart Repair

Circ Res. 2019 Oct 11;125(9):787-801. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.119.315023. Epub 2019 Aug 22.


Rationale: Mechanistic insight into the inflammatory response after acute myocardial infarction may inform new molecularly targeted treatment strategies to prevent chronic heart failure.

Objective: We identified the sulfatase SULF2 in an in silico secretome analysis in bone marrow cells from patients with acute myocardial infarction and detected increased sulfatase activity in myocardial autopsy samples. SULF2 (Sulf2 in mice) and its isoform SULF1 (Sulf1) act as endosulfatases removing 6-O-sulfate groups from heparan sulfate (HS) in the extracellular space, thus eliminating docking sites for HS-binding proteins. We hypothesized that the Sulfs have a role in tissue repair after myocardial infarction.

Methods and results: Both Sulfs were dynamically upregulated after coronary artery ligation in mice, attaining peak expression and activity levels during the first week after injury. Sulf2 was expressed by monocytes and macrophages, Sulf1 by endothelial cells and fibroblasts. Infarct border zone capillarization was impaired, scar size increased, and cardiac dysfunction more pronounced in mice with a genetic deletion of either Sulf1 or Sulf2. Studies in bone marrow-chimeric Sulf-deficient mice and Sulf-deficient cardiac endothelial cells established that inflammatory cell-derived Sulf2 and endothelial cell-autonomous Sulf1 promote angiogenesis. Mechanistically, both Sulfs reduced HS sulfation in the infarcted myocardium, thereby diminishing Vegfa (vascular endothelial growth factor A) interaction with HS. Along this line, both Sulfs rendered infarcted mouse heart explants responsive to the angiogenic effects of HS-binding Vegfa164 but did not modulate the angiogenic effects of non-HS-binding Vegfa120. Treating wild-type mice systemically with the small molecule HS-antagonist surfen (bis-2-methyl-4-amino-quinolyl-6-carbamide, 1 mg/kg/day) for 7 days after myocardial infarction released Vegfa from HS, enhanced infarct border-zone capillarization, and exerted sustained beneficial effects on cardiac function and survival.

Conclusions: These findings establish HS-editing Sulfs as critical inducers of postinfarction angiogenesis and identify HS sulfation as a therapeutic target for ischemic tissue repair.

Keywords: endothelial cells; fibroblasts; heparan sulfate; inflammation; mice; myocardial infarction; sulfatase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Extracellular Space / drug effects
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myocardial Ischemia / metabolism*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / pathology
  • Sulfatases / biosynthesis*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / administration & dosage
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*


  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Sulfatases
  • heparan sulfate sulfatase