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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Agrin is a heparan sulfate proteoglycan.

In the present study we have identified the extracellular matrix protein agrin as a major heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) in embryonic chick brain. Using monoclonal antibodies and a polyclonal antiserum to the core protein of a previously identified HSPG from embryonic chick brain, our expression screened a random-primed E9 chick brain cDNA library. Twelve cDNAs were isolated that were shown to be identical to the chick extracellular matrix protein agrin. Western blot analysis and immunocytochemistry confirmed that agrin is a HSPG that is identical with the HSPG from embryonic chick brain. A polyclonal antiserum to recombinant agrin protein recognized agrin as a diffuse band of over 400 kDa in extracts from brain and vitreous humor. The agrin immunoreactivity on the blot was shifted to a defined band of approximately 250 kDa after treatment of the samples with heparitinase or nitrous acid, and this banding pattern was indistinguishable from immunoreactivity obtained with antibodies to the brain HSPG. We also show that agrin binds tightly to anion exchange beads, indicating that the molecule is highly negatively charged, which is a hallmark of all proteoglycans. Furthermore, the agrin antiserum recognizes the affinity purified HSPG from chick brain and vitreous humor. Immunocytochemistry demonstrated that agrin is expressed in developing brain, and is especially abundant in developing axonal tracts, in a distribution identical to the staining of the brain HSPG with monoclonal antibodies. We also show that the anti-HSPG antibodies stain the synaptic site of the neuromuscular junction, in agreement with agrin expression. Thus, our studies demonstrate that chick agrin is a HSPG that is prominent in the embryonic chick brain. Since previous studies from our laboratories have shown that this proteoglycan interacts with neural cell adhesion molecule, our studies raise the interesting possibility that neural cell adhesion molecule and agrin are interactive partners that may regulate a variety of cell adhesion processes during neural development, including synaptogenesis.[1]


  1. Agrin is a heparan sulfate proteoglycan. Tsen, G., Halfter, W., Kröger, S., Cole, G.J. J. Biol. Chem. (1995) [Pubmed]
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