Glycobiology and Extracellular Matrices
- Inter-α-inhibitor is a proteoglycan essential for mammalian reproduction and also plays a less well-characterized role in inflammation. It comprises two homologous “heavy chains” (HC1 and HC2) covalently attached to chondroitin sulfate on the bikunin core protein. Before ovulation, HCs are transferred onto the polysaccharide hyaluronan (HA) to form covalent HC·HA complexes, thereby stabilizing an extracellular matrix around the oocyte required for fertilization. Additionally, such complexes form during inflammatory processes and mediate leukocyte adhesion in the synovial fluids of arthritis patients and protect against sepsis.
- Mucin 5B (MUC5B) has an essential role in mucociliary clearance that protects the pulmonary airways. Accordingly, knowledge of MUC5B structure and its interactions with itself and other proteins is critical to better understand airway mucus biology and improve the management of lung diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The role of an N-terminal multimerization domain in the supramolecular organization of MUC5B has been previously described, but less is known about its C-terminal dimerization domain.
- Elastic fibers comprising fibrillin microfibrils and elastin are present in many tissues, including the skin, lungs, and arteries, where they confer elasticity and resilience. Although fibrillin microfibrils play distinct and tissue-specific functional roles, it is unclear whether their ultrastructure and composition differ between elastin-rich (skin) and elastin-poor (ciliary body and zonule) organs or after in vitro synthesis by cultured cells. Here, we used atomic force microscopy, which revealed that the bead morphology of fibrillin microfibrils isolated from the human eye differs from those isolated from the skin.
- Since the discovery of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) as pluripotent cytokines extractable from bone matrix, it has been speculated how targeting of BMPs to the extracellular matrix (ECM) modulates their bioavailability. Understanding these processes is crucial for elucidating pathomechanisms of connective tissue disorders characterized by ECM deficiency and growth factor dysregulation. Here, we provide evidence for a new BMP targeting and sequestration mechanism that is controlled by the ECM molecule fibrillin-1.
- Collagen VI, a collagen with uncharacteristically large N- and C-terminal non-collagenous regions, forms a distinct microfibrillar network in most connective tissues. It was long considered to consist of three genetically distinct α chains (α1, α2, and α3). Intracellularly, heterotrimeric molecules associate to form dimers and tetramers, which are then secreted and assembled to microfibrils. The identification of three novel long collagen VI α chains, α4, α5, and α6, led to the question if and how these may substitute for the long α3 chain in collagen VI assembly.