The heterogeneity of proteoglycans (PG)s contributes to their functional diversity. Many functions depend on their ability to bind and modulate the activity of components of the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ability of PGs to interact with other molecules, such as growth factors, is largely determined by the fine structure of the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chains. Tumorigenesis is associated with changes in the PG synthesis. Heparan sulfate (HS) PGs are involved in several aspects of cancer biology including tumor progression, angiogenesis, and metastasis. PGs can have both tumor promoting and tumor suppressing activities depending on the protein core, the GAG attached, molecules they associate with, localization, the tumor subtype, stages, and degree of tumor differentiation. Perlecan is an angiogenic factor involved in tumor invasiveness. The C-terminal domain V of perlecan, named endorepellin, has however been shown to inhibit angiogenesis. Another angiogenic factor is endostatin, the COOH-terminal domain of the part-time PG collagen XVIII. Glypicans and syndecans may promote local cancer cell growth in some cancer tissues, but inhibit tissue invasion and metastasis in others. The GAG hyaluronan (HA) promotes cancer growth by providing a loose matrix for migrating tumor cells and mediates adhesion of cancer cells. HSPG degrading enzymes like heparanase, heparitinase, and other enzymes such as hyaluronidase and MMP are also important in tumor metastasis. Several different treatment strategies that target PGs have been developed. They have the potential to be effective in reducing tumor growth and inhibit the formation of metastases. PGs are also valuable tumor markers in several cancers.
Keywords: tumor, metastasis, heparan sulfate proteoglycan, matrix, endothelial, angiogenesis, tumor marker, cancer therapy
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