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Critical Reviews™ in Eukaryotic Gene Expression

Impact factor: 1.660

ISSN Print: 1045-4403
ISSN Online: 2162-6502

Critical Reviews™ in Eukaryotic Gene Expression

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevEukarGeneExpr.v17.i2.50
pages 159-172

Heparan Sulfate Control of Proliferation and Differentiation in the Stem Cell Niche

Victor Nurcombe
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology; and Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Simon M. Cool
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology; and Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore

ABSTRACT

Tissue-specific stem cell populations are established in "niches," anatomic locations with precise biochemical and cellular configurations that regulate their release and participation in tissue generation, maintenance, and repair. Niches have evolved to protect and perpetuate the self-renewing, undifferentiated state of the cells within and to regulate the rate of production of committed, tissue-specific progenitors. A niche thus integrates the cell growth, cell adhesion, and cell-cell signals that mediate the balanced response of stem cells to the needs of the organism. One constituent of every niche with the capacity to mediate almost all of the required functions is the glycosaminoglycan sugar heparan sulfate. This sugar is a master regulator of mitogenic and adhesive molecule behavior with the ability to rapidly change its binding affinities on the cell surface. Its properties may be the key to understanding the interplay between stem cells and their niche that creates the dynamic system necessary for sustaining tissues. As such, it has great promise for the design of tissue-specific stem cell therapeutics.