Heparan sulfate is perhaps the most complex polysaccharide known from animals. The basic repeating disaccharide is extensively modified by sulfation and uronic acid epimerization. Despite this, the fine structure of heparan sulfate is remarkably consistent with a particular cell type. This suggests that the synthesis of heparan sulfate is tightly controlled. Although genomics has identified the enzymes involved in glycosaminoglycan synthesis in a number of vertebrates and invertebrates, the regulation of the process is not understood. Moreover, the localization of the various enzymes in the Golgi apparatus has not been carried out in a detailed way using high-resolution microscopy. We have begun this process, using well-known markers for the various Golgi compartments, coupled with the use of characterized antibodies and cDNA expression. Laser scanning confocal microscopy coupled with line scanning provides high-quality resolution of the distribution of enzymes. The EXT2 protein, which when combined as heterodimers with EXT1 comprises the major polymerase in heparan sulfate synthesis, has been studied in depth. All the data are consistent with a cis-Golgi distribution and provide a starting point to establish whether all the enzymes are clustered in a multimolecular complex or are distributed through the various compartments of the Golgi apparatus.
Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry, 2012, Vol 60, Issue 12, p. 908-15