Specificity for fibroblast growth factors determined by heparan sulfate in a binary complex with the receptor kinase

Mikio Kan, Xiaochong Wu, Fen Wang, Wallace L. McKeehan

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128 Scopus citations


A divalent cation-dependent association between heparin or heparan sulfate and the ectodomain of the FGF receptor kinase (FGFR) restricts FGF- independent trans-phosphorylation and supports the binding of activating FGF to self-associated FGFR. Here we show that in contrast to heparin, cellular heparan sulfate forms a binary complex with FGFR that discriminates between FGF-1 and FGF-2. FGFR type 4 (FGFR4) in liver parenchymal cells binds only FGF-1, whereas FGFR1 binds FGF-1 and FGF-2 equally. Cell-free complexes of heparin and recombinant FGFR4 bound FGF-1 and FGF-2 equally. However, in contrast to FGFR1, when recombinant FGFR4 was expressed back in epithelial cells by transfection, it failed to bind FGF-2 unless heparan sulfate was depressed by chlorate or heparinase treatment. Isolated heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) from liver cells in cell-free complexes with FGFR4 restored the specificity for FGF-1 and supported the binding of both FGF-1 and FGF-2 when complexed with FGFR1. In contrast, FGF-2 bound equally well to complexes of both FGFR1 and FGFR4 formed with endothelial cell-derived HSPG, but the endothelial HSPG was deficient for the binding of FGF-1 to both FGFR complexes. These data suggest that a heparan sulfate subunit is a cell type- and FGFR-specific determinant of the selectivity of the FGFR signaling complex for FGF. In a physiological context, the heparan sulfate subunit may limit the redundancy among the current 18 FGF polypeptides for the 4 known FGFR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15947-15952
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number22
StatePublished - May 28 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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