A key event in inflammatory disease is the transendothelial recruitment of leukocytes from the
circulation to the site of inflammation. Intense research in the past decades indicates that the polyanionic
carbohydrate heparan sulphate (HS) modulates multiple steps in the leukocyte recruitment cascade. Leukocyte
recruitment is initiated by endothelial cell activation and presentation of chemokines to rolling leukocytes,
which, via integrin activation, results in adhesion and diapedesis through the vessel wall. Heparan sulfate
proteoglycans (HSPGs) immobilize the chemokines on the luminal endothelial cells, rendering them
more robust against mechanical or hydrodynamic perturbations. During inflammation, endothelial HSPGs
serve as ligands to L-selectin on leukocytes, transport chemokines in a basolateral to apical direction across the endothelium,
and present chemokines at the luminal surface of the endothelium to circulating cells. HSPGs also promote
chemokine oligomerization, which influences chemokine receptor signaling. Furthermore, proteoglycans of the syndecan
family are involved in modulating integrin-mediated tight adhesion of leukocytes to the endothelium. Creation of a
chemokine gradient by a localized chemokine release influences the speed of leukocyte recruitment from the blood to the
tissue by attracting crawling neutrophils to optimal sites for transmigration. The directionality of intraluminal crawling is
thought to be influenced by both mechanotactic and haptotactic signals, which are modulated by HS-dependent signaling
processes. Finally, diapedesis is influenced by HS regarding transendothelial chemokine gradient formation and integrin-
CAM interactions, and further enhanced by heparanase-mediated degradation of the endothelial basement membrane.
Overall, the multifunctional role of HS in inflammation marks it as a potential target of glycan-centered therapeutic approaches.
Keywords: chemokine, diapedesis, heparanase, heparan sulphate, intraluminal crawling, proteoglycan, selectin, syndecan.
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