Biochemical studies of mammalian EXT

Hereditary multiple exostoses (HME) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by the formation of cartilage-capped tumours (exostoses) that develop from the growth plate of endochondral bone. This condition can lead to skeletal abnormalities, short stature and malignant transformation of exostoses to chondrosarcomas or osteosarcomas. Linkage analyses have identified three different genes for HME, EXT1 on 8q24.1, EXT2 on 11p11-13 and EXT3 on 19p. Most HME cases have been attributed to missense or frameshift mutations in these tumor-supressor genes, whose functions have remained obscure. EXT1 is shown to be an ER-resident type II transmembrane glycoprotein whose expression in cells results in the alteration of the synthesis and display of cell surface heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Two EXT1 variants containing aetiologic missense mutations failed to alter cell-surface glycosaminoglycans, despite retaining their ER-localization (McCormack, 1998).

Hereditary multiple exostoses, characterized by multiple cartilaginous tumors, is ascribed to mutations at three distinct loci, denoted EXT1-3. A protein has been purified from bovine serum that harbored the D-glucuronyl (GlcA) and N-acetyl-D-glucosaminyl (GlcNAc) transferase activities required for biosynthesis of the glycosaminoglycan, heparan sulfate (HS). This protein was identified as EXT2. Expression of EXT2 yielded a protein with both glycosyltransferase activities. Moreover, EXT1, previously found to rescue defective HS biosynthesis, elevates the low GlcA and GlcNAc transferase levels of mutant cells. Thus at least two members of the EXT family of tumor suppressors encode glycosyltransferases involved in the chain elongation step of HS biosynthesis (Lind, 1998).

Hereditary multiple exostoses, a dominantly inherited genetic disorder characterized by multiple cartilaginous tumors, is caused by mutations in members of the EXT gene family, EXT1 or EXT2. The proteins encoded by these genes, EXT1 and EXT2, are endoplasmic reticulum-localized type II transmembrane glycoproteins that possess or are tightly associated with glycosyltransferase activities involved in the polymerization of heparan sulfate. A cell line with a specific defect in EXT1 was tested in in vivo and in vitro assays. EXT2 does not harbor significant glycosyltransferase activity in the absence of EXT1. Instead, it appears that EXT1 and EXT2 form a hetero-oligomeric complex in vivo that leads to the accumulation of both proteins in the Golgi apparatus. Remarkably, the Golgi-localized EXT1/EXT2 complex possesses substantially higher glycosyltransferase activity than EXT1 or EXT2 alone: this suggests that the complex represents the biologically relevant form of the enzyme(s). These findings provide a rationale to explain how inherited mutations in either of the two EXT genes can cause loss of activity, resulting in hereditary multiple exostoses (McCormick, 2000).

The D-glucuronyltransferase and N-acetyl-D-glucosaminyltransferase reactions in heparan sulfate biosynthesis have been associated with two genes, EXT1 and EXT2, which are also implicated in the inherited bone disorder, multiple exostoses. Since the cell systems used to express recombinant EXT proteins synthesize endogenous heparan sulfate, and the EXT proteins tend to associate, it has not been possible to define the functional roles of the individual protein species. EXT1 and EXT2 were therefore expressed in yeast, which does not synthesize heparan sulfate. Both recombinant EXT1 and EXT2 were found to catalyze both glycosyltransferase reactions in vitro. Coexpression of the two proteins, but not mixing of separately expressed recombinant EXT1 and EXT2, yields hetero-oligomeric complexes in yeast and mammalian cells, with augmented glycosyltransferase activities. This stimulation does not depend on the membrane-bound state of the proteins (Senay, 2000).

The tumor suppressors EXT1 and EXT2 are associated with hereditary multiple exostoses and encode bifunctional glycosyltransferases essential for chain polymerization of heparan sulfate (HS) and its analog, heparin (Hep). Three highly homologous EXT-like genes, EXTL1-EXTL3, have been cloned, and EXTL2 is an alpha1,4-GlcNAc transferase I, the key enzyme that initiates the HS/Hep synthesis. In the present study, truncated forms of EXTL1 and EXTL3, lacking the putative NH2-terminal transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains, were transiently expressed in COS-1 cells and found to harbor alpha-GlcNAc transferase activity. EXTL3 used not only N-acetylheparosan oligosaccharides that represent growing HS chains but also GlcAbeta1-3Galbeta1-O-C2H4NH-benzyloxycarbonyl (Cbz), a synthetic substrate for alpha-GlcNAc transferase I that determines and initiates HS/Hep synthesis. In contrast, EXTL1 used only the former acceptor. Neither EXTL1 nor EXTL3 showed any glucuronyltransferase activity as examined with N-acetylheparosan oligosaccharides. Heparitinase I digestion of each transferase-reaction product showed that GlcNAc had been transferred exclusively through an alpha1,4-configuration. Hence, EXTL3 most likely is involved in both chain initiation and elongation, whereas EXTL1 possibly is involved only in the chain elongation of HS and, maybe, Hep as well. Thus, their acceptor specificities of the five family members are overlapping but distinct from each other, except for EXT1 and EXT2 with the same specificity. It now has been clarified that all of the five cloned human EXT gene family proteins harbor glycosyltransferase activities, which probably contribute to the synthesis of HS and Hep (Kim, 2001).

Heparan, the common unsulfated precursor of heparan sulfate (HS) and heparin, is synthesized on the glycosaminoglycan-protein linkage region tetrasaccharide GlcUA-Gal-Gal-Xyl attached to the respective core proteins presumably by HS co-polymerases encoded by EXT1 and EXT2, the genetic defects of which result in hereditary multiple exostoses in humans. Although both EXT1 and EXT2 exhibit GlcNAc transferase and GlcUA transferase activities required for the HS synthesis, no HS chain polymerization has been demonstrated in vitro using recombinant enzymes. This study reports in vitro HS polymerization. Recombinant soluble enzymes expressed by co-transfection of EXT1 and EXT2 synthesized heparan polymers with average molecular weights greater than 1.7 x 105 using UDP-[3H]GlcNAc and UDP-GlcUA as donors on the recombinant glypican-1 core protein and also on the synthetic linkage region analog GlcUA-Gal-O-C2H4NH-benzyloxycarbonyl. Moreover, in this in vitro polymerization system, a part-time proteoglycan, alpha-thrombomodulin, that is normally modified with chondroitin sulfate served as a polymerization primer for heparan chain. In contrast, no polymerization was achieved with a mixture of individually expressed EXT1 and EXT2 or with acceptor substrates such as N-acetylheparosan oligosaccharides or the linkage region tetrasaccharide-Ser, all of which are devoid of a hydrophobic aglycon, suggesting the critical requirement of core protein moieties in addition to the interaction between EXT1 and EXT2 for HS polymerization (Kim, 2003).

Multiple exosotoses is a dominantly inherited bone disorder caused by defects in EXT1 and EXT2, genes encoding glycosyltransferases involved in heparan sulfate chain elongation. Heparan sulfate polymerization occurs by the alternating addition of glucuronic acid and N-acetylglucosamine units to the nonreducing end of the polysaccharide. EXT1 and EXT2 are suggested to be dual glucuronyl/N-acetylglucosaminyltransferases, and a heterooligomeric complex of EXT1 and EXT2 (EXT1/2) is considered to be the biological functional polymerization unit. The in vitro polymerization capacities of recombinant soluble EXT1, EXT2, and EXT1/2 complex were investigated on exogenous oligosaccharide acceptors derived from Escherichia coli K5 capsular polysaccharide. Incubations of recombinant EXT1 or EXT1/2 complex with 3H-labeled oligosaccharide acceptors and the appropriate nucleotide sugars resulted in conversion of the acceptors to higher molecular weight compounds but with different efficacies for EXT1 and EXT1/2. In contrast, incubations with recombinant EXT2 resulted in the addition of a single glucuronic acid but no further polymerization. These results indicate that EXT1 alone and the EXT1/2 heterocomplex can act as heparan sulfate polymerases in vitro without the addition of additional auxiliary proteins (Busse, 2003).

EXT genes in C. elegans

The proteins encoded by the EXT1, EXT2, and EXTL2 genes, members of the hereditary multiple exostoses gene family of tumor suppressors, are glycosyltransferases required for the heparan sulfate biosynthesis. Only two homologous genes, rib-1 and rib-2, of the mammalian EXT genes were identified in the C. elegans genome. Although heparan sulfate is found in C. elegans, the involvement of the rib-1 and rib-2 proteins in heparan sulfate biosynthesis remains unclear. In the present study, the substrate specificity of a soluble recombinant form of the rib-2 protein was determined and compared with those of the recombinant forms of the mammalian EXT1, EXT2, and EXTL2 proteins. The present findings revealed that the rib-2 protein was a unique alpha1,4-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase involved in the biosynthetic initiation and elongation of heparan sulfate. In contrast, the findings confirmed the previous observations that both the EXT1 and EXT2 proteins are heparan sulfate copolymerases with both alpha1,4-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase and beta1,4-glucuronyltransferase activities, which are involved only in the elongation step of the heparan sulfate chain, and that the EXTL2 protein is an alpha1,4-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase involved only in the initiation of heparan sulfate synthesis. These findings suggest that the biosynthetic mechanism of heparan sulfate in C. elegans is distinct from that reported for the mammalian system (Kitagawa, 2001).

EXT gene family members including EXT1, EXT2, and EXTL2 are glycosyltransferases required for heparan sulfate biosynthesis. To examine the biological functions of rib-2, a member of the Caenorhabditis elegans EXT gene family, a mutant worm lacking the rib-2 gene was generated using the UV-TMP method followed by sib-selection. Inactivation of rib-2 alleles induced developmental abnormalities in F2 and F3 homozygous worms, while F1 heterozygotes showed a normal morphology. The F2 homozygous progeny generated from the F1 heterozygous hermaphrodites somehow developed to adult stage but exhibited abnormal characteristics such as developmental delay and egg-laying defects. The F3 homozygous progeny from the F2 homozygous hermaphrodites showed early developmental defects and most of the F3 worms stopped developing during the gastrulation stage. Whole-mount staining analysis for heparan sulfate using Toluidine blue (pH 2.5) revealed a defect of heparan sulfate biosynthesis in the F2 homozygotes. The analysis using fluorometric post-column high-performance liquid chromatography also uncovered reduced production of heparan sulfate in the rib-2 mutant. These results indicate that rib-2 is essential for embryonic development and heparan sulfate biosynthesis in C. elegans (Morio, 2003).

Functional Requirements for Heparan Sulfate Biosynthesis in Morphogenesis and Nervous System Development in C. elegans

The regulation of cell migration is essential to animal development and physiology. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans shape the interactions of morphogens and guidance cues with their respective receptors to elicit appropriate cellular responses. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans consist of a protein core with attached heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycan chains, which are synthesized by glycosyltransferases of the exostosin (EXT) family (see Drosophila tout-velu). Abnormal HS chain synthesis results in pleiotropic consequences, including abnormal development and tumor formation. This study identified and studied previously unavailable viable hypomorphic mutations in the two C. elegans exostosin glycosyltransferases genes, rib-1 and rib-2. These partial loss-of-function mutations lead to a severe reduction of HS levels and result in profound but specific developmental defects, including abnormal cell and axonal migrations. The expression pattern of the HS copolymerase was found to be dynamic during embryonic and larval morphogenesis, and is sustained throughout life in specific cell types, consistent with HSPGs playing both developmental and post-developmental roles. Cell-type specific expression of the HS copolymerase shows that HS elongation is required in both the migrating neuron and neighboring cells to coordinate migration guidance. These findings provide insights into general principles underlying HSPG function in development (Blanchette, 2017).

Cloning, genomic structure, and developmental expression of mammalian EXT genes

Hereditary multiple exostoses (EXT) is an autosomal dominant condition characterized by short stature and the development of bony protuberances at the ends of all the long bones. Three genetic loci have been identified by genetic linkage analysis at chromosomes 8q24.1, 11p11-13 and 19p. The EXT1 gene on chromosome 8 was recently identified and characterized. This study reports the isolation and characterization of the EXT2 gene. This gene shows striking sequence similarity to the EXT1 gene, and a four base deletion segregating with the phenotype has been identified. Both EXT1 and EXT2 show significant homology with one additional expressed sequence tag, defining a new multigene family of proteins with potential tumor suppressor activity (Stickens, 1996).

Hereditary predisposition to multiple exostoses is a genetically heterogeneous disease. A cDNA clone has been isolated from a human adult lung cDNA library and the genomic organization and promoter structure of the EXT1 gene has been determined. The gene is composed of 11 exons, ranging from 90 to 1735 bp, and spans approximately 350 kb of genomic DNA. Sequence analysis of the promoter region revealed the presence of a CpG island containing GC and CAAT boxes, but no TATA box. Such a promoter is characteristic for housekeeping genes. This finding is in good agreement with the ubiquitous expression of the EXT1 gene (Ludecke, 1997).

Hereditary multiple exostoses (EXT) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by multiple cartilage-capped outgrowths from the epiphyses of long bones. In some cases, these osteochondromas progress to malignant chondrosarcomas. Alterations in at least three genes (EXT1, EXT2, and EXT3) can cause this disorder. Two of these have been isolated (EXT1 and EXT2) and encode related members of a putative tumor suppressor family. The genomic structure of the human EXT2 gene consists of 14 exons (plus 2 alternative exons) covering an estimated 108 kb of chromosome 11p11-13. The DNA sequences at all exon/intron boundaries throughout this gene have been derived. This information is important for the detailed study of mutations in EXT2. The mouse EXT2 cDNA has been characterized and the mouse locus has been mapped to chromosome 2 between D2Mit15 and Pax6. This mouse homolog should enable transgenic knockout experiments to be initiated to further elucidate gene function. Interestingly, sequence comparisons reveal that the human and mouse EXT genes have at least two homologs in the invertebrate Caenorhabditis elegans, indicating that they do not function exclusively as regulators of bone growth. This observation opens the way for a functional analysis of these genes in nematodes and other lower organisms (Clines, 1997).

Multiple exostoses is a polygenic disease of bone formation and development characterized by the presence of cartilage-capped osseous projections emanating from the end of the long bones. Two members of a recently defined multigene family of proteins (EXT1 and 2) were shown to be involved in this disease. To investigate the evolutionary relatedness of EXT genes across species, the mouse EXT2 cDNA was isolated. As in the human counterpart, the mouse EXT2 cDNA contains an open reading frame of 2154 bp encoding a predicted protein of 718 amino acids. The nucleic acid sequence is 87% identical to the human EXT2 transcript, resulting in an amino acid sequence which is 95% identical to the human protein. The mouse EXT2 gene also shows significant sequence similarity to the mouse and human EXT1 gene. Northern blot analysis shows that this gene is expressed in early stages of embryonic development, and in situ hybridizations suggest that EXT2 plays a role in limb development. The identification of the mouse EXT2 gene will allow functional analysis through insertional inactivation and reverse genetics in mice in order to better understand the formation of exostoses during bone formation (Stickens, 1997).

Hereditary multiple exostoses (HME) is a genetically heterogeneous disease characterized by the development of bony protuberances at the ends of all long bones. Genetic analyses have revealed HME to be a multigenic disorder linked to three loci on chromosomes 8q24 (EXT1), 11p11-13 (EXT2), and 19p (EXT3). The EXT1 and EXT2 genes have been cloned and defined as glycosyltransferases involved in the synthesis of heparan sulfate. EST database analysis has demonstrated additional gene family members, EXT-like genes (EXTL1, EXTL2, and EXTL3), not associated with a HME locus. The mouse homologs of EXT1 and EXT2 have also been cloned and shown to be 99% and 95% identical to their human counterparts, respectively. This study identifies the mouse EXTL1 gene and shows that it is 74% identical to the human EXTL1 gene. Expression studies of all three mouse EXT genes throughout various stages of embryonic development were carried out and whole-mount in situ hybridization in the developing limb buds showed high levels of expression of all three EXT genes. However, in situ hybridization of sectioned embryos revealed remarkable differences in expression profiles of EXT1, EXT2, and EXTL1. The identical expression patterns found for the EXT1 and EXT2 genes support the recent observation that both proteins form a glycosyltransferase complex. A model for exostoses formation is suggested based on the involvement of EXT1 and EXT2 in the Indian hedgehog/parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP) signaling pathway, an important regulator of the chondrocyte maturation process (Stickens, 2000).

Sonic hedgehog promotes proliferation of developing cerebellar granule cells. Since sonic hedgehog is expressed in the cerebellum throughout life it is not clear why proliferation occurs only in the early postnatal period and only in the external granule cell layer. It was asked whether heparan sulfate proteoglycans might regulate sonic hedgehog-induced proliferation and thereby contribute to the specialized proliferative environment of the external granule cell layer. A conserved sequence was identified within sonic hedgehog that is essential for binding to heparan sulfate proteoglycans, but not for binding to the receptor patched. Sonic hedgehog interactions with heparan sulfate proteoglycans promote maximal proliferation of postnatal day 6 granule cells. By contrast, proliferation of less mature granule cells is not affected by sonic hedgehog-proteoglycan interactions. The importance of proteoglycans for proliferation increases during development in parallel with increasing expression of the glycosyltransferase genes, exostosin 1 and exostosin 2. These data suggest that heparan sulfate proteoglycans, synthesized by exostosins, may be critical determinants of granule cell proliferation (Rubin, 2002).

Heparan sulfate (HS) and heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) play significant roles in various biological processes. There is a wealth of circumstantial and experimental evidence suggesting the roles of HS in mammalian neural development. HS synthesis is governed by a series of enzymes. Among them, two enzymes, EXT1 and EXT2, catalyze polymerization of glucuronic acid and N-acetylglucosamine, the crucial step of HS synthesis. To obtain insight into the roles of HS in neural development, the spatiotemporal expression patterns of EXT1 and EXT2 during mice brain development were examined. RT-PCR analyses showed that expression of EXT1 and EXT2 peaks during early postnatal period in the cerebrum and around birth in the cerebellum. In situ hybridization revealed that in the embryonic brain, EXT1 and EXT2 are localized primarily in the neuroepithelial cells surrounding the lateral ventricles, the mesencephalic vesicle, and the fourth ventricle. In the early postnatal stage, intense expression of EXT1 and EXT2 is observed in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus formation. In the postnatal cerebellum, expression of EXT1 and EXT2 was mainly observed in external and internal granular layers. These results demonstrate that EXT1 and EXT2 are highly expressed in the developing brain, and that their expression is developmentally regulated, suggesting that HS is involved in various neurodevelopmental processes (Inatani, 2003b).

Mutation of mammalian EXT genes

Hereditary multiple exostoses is an autosomal dominant disorder that is characterized by short stature and multiple, benign bone tumors. In a majority of families, the genetic defect (EXT1) is linked to the Langer-Giedion syndrome chromosomal region in 8q24.1. From this region a cDNA has been cloned and characterized that spans chromosomal breakpoints previously identified in two multiple exostoses patients. Furthermore, the gene harbors frameshift mutations in affected members of two EXT1 families. The cDNA has a coding region of 2,238 bp with no apparent homology to other known gene sequences and thus its function remains elusive. However, recent studies in sporadic and exostosis-derived chondrosarcomas suggest that the 8q24.1-encoded EXT1 gene may have tumor suppressor function (Ahn, 1995).

Hereditary multiple exostoses (EXT) is a genetically heterogeneous bone disorder caused by genes segregating on human chromosomes 8, 11, and 19 and designated EXT1, EXT2 and EXT3, respectively. Recently, the EXT1 gene has been isolated and partially characterized and appears to encode a tumor suppressor gene. Six mutations have been identified in the human EXT1 gene from six unrelated multiple exostoses families segregating for the EXT gene on chromosome 8. One of the mutations detected is the same 1-bp deletion in exon 6 that was previously reported in two independent EXT families. The other five mutations, in exons 1, 6, 9, and the splice junction at the 3' end of exon 2, are novel. In each case, the mutation is likely to result in a truncated or nonfunctional EXT1 protein. These results corroborate and extend the previous report of mutations in this gene in two EXT families, and provide additional support for the EXT1 gene as the cause of hereditary multiple exostoses in families showing linkage to chromosome 8 (Wells, 1997).

Mutations in the EXT1 gene are responsible for human hereditary multiple exostosis type 1. The Drosophila EXT1 homolog, Tout-velu, regulates Hedgehog diffusion and signaling: these processes play an important role in tissue patterning during both invertebrate and vertebrate development. The EXT1 protein is also required for the biosynthesis of heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycans that bind Hedgehog. In this study, EXT1-deficient mice were generated by gene targeting. EXT1 homozygous mutants fail to gastrulate and generally lack organized mesoderm and extraembryonic tissues, resulting in smaller embryos compared to normal littermates. RT-PCR analysis of markers for visceral endoderm and mesoderm development indicates the delayed and abnormal development of both of these tissues. Immunohistochemical staining revealed a visceral endoderm pattern of Indian hedgehog (Ihh) in wild-type E6.5 embryos. However, in both EXT1-deficient embryos and wild-type embryos treated with heparitinase I, Ihh failed to associate with the cells. The effect of the EXT1 deletion on heparan sulfate formation was tested by HPLC and cellular glycosyltransferase activity assays. Heparan sulfate synthesis was abolished in EXT1-/- ES cells and decreased to less than 50% in +/- cell lines. These results indicate that EXT1 is essential for both gastrulation and heparan sulfate biosynthesis in early embryonic development (Lin, 2000a).

Heparan sulfate formation occurs by the copolymerization of glucuronic acid (GlcA) and N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) residues. Recent studies have shown that these reactions are catalyzed by a copolymerase encoded by EXT1 and EXT2, members of the exostosin family of putative tumor suppressors linked to hereditary multiple exostoses. A collection of Chinese hamster ovary cell mutants (pgsD) have been identified that failed to make heparan sulfate. pgsD mutants contain mutations that either alter GlcA transferase activity selectively or that affect both GlcNAc and GlcA transferase activities. Expression of EXT1 corrects the deficiencies in the mutants, whereas EXT2 and the related EXT-like cDNAs do not. Analysis of the EXT1 mutant alleles revealed clustered missense mutations in a domain that included a (D/E)X(D/E) motif thought to bind the nucleotide sugar from studies of other transferases. These findings provide insight into the location of the GlcA transferase subdomain of the enzyme and indicate that loss of the GlcA transferase domain may be sufficient to cause hereditary multiple exostoses (Wei, 2000).

Hereditary multiple exostoses (HME), a dominantly inherited disorder characterized by multiple cartilaginous tumors, is caused by mutations in the gene for, EXT1 or EXT2. Recent studies have revealed that EXT1 and EXT2 are required for the biosynthesis of heparan sulfate and exert maximal transferase activity as a complex. The Drosophila homolog of EXT1 (Tout-velu) regulates the movement and signaling of Hedgehog protein, which plays an important role in the regulation of chondrocyte differentiation and bone development. In this study, to investigate the biological role of EXT2 in bone development in vivo and the pathological role of HME mutations in the development of exostoses, transgenic mice were generated expressing EXT2 or mutant EXT2 in developing chondrocytes. Histological analyses and micro-CT scanning showed that the biosynthesis of heparan sulfate and the formation of trabeculae were upregulated in EXT2-transgenic mice, but not in mutant EXT2-transgenic mice. The expression of EXT1 is concomitantly upregulated in EXT2-transgenic and even mutant EXT2-transgenic mice, suggesting an interactive regulation of EXT1 and EXT2 expression. These findings support that the EXT2 gene encodes an essential component of the glycosyltransferase complex required for the biosynthesis of heparan sulfate, which may eventually modulate the signaling involved in bone formation (Morimoto, 2003).

Exostosin1 (Ext1) belongs to a family of glycosyltransferases necessary for the synthesis of the heparan sulfate (HS) chains of proteoglycans, which regulate signaling of several growth factors. Loss of tout velu (ttv), the homolog of Ext1 in Drosophila, inhibits Hedgehog movement. In contrast, it has been shown that reduced HS synthesis in mice carrying a hypomorphic mutation in Ext1 results in an elevated range of Indian hedgehog (Ihh) signaling during embryonic chondrocyte differentiation. The data suggest a dual function for HS: (1) HS is necessary to bind Hedgehog in the extracellular space. (2) HS negatively regulates the range of Hedgehog signaling in a concentration-dependent manner. (3) The data indicate that Ihh acts as a long-range morphogen, directly activating the expression of parathyroid hormone-like hormone. Finally, it is proposed that the development of exostoses in the human Hereditary Multiple Exostoses syndrome can be attributed to activation of Ihh signaling (Koziel, 2004).

Based on the Drosophila studies, it might be expected that the reduced levels of HS in Ext1Gt/Gt mice would result in decreased Ihh signaling and, hence, loss of Pthlh expression and accelerated hypertrophic differentiation. In contrast, the results clearly demonstrate that Ihh signaling is increased, not decreased. As Ext1Gt/Gt mice produce lower amounts of HS, it is concluded that HS restricts Ihh propagation in mice, thereby negatively regulating Ihh signaling. This hypothesis is supported by treatment of wild-type limb explants with HS, which leads to a concentration-dependent restriction of Ptch expression to cells flanking the Ihh expression domain. The role of HS in regulating Ihh signaling in mice seems thus to be in contrast to its proposed function in regulating hh in Drosophila. This discrepancy could implicate a different role of HS in regulating Hedgehog signaling in vertebrates and flies. Given the conservation of the Hedgehog signaling pathway, however, it is more likely that the difference reflects the different alleles investigated, null in Drosophila and hypomorphic in mice. Thus, a dual function is proposed for HS in controlling Hedgehog signals: (1) HS is necessary to bind Hedgehog molecules in the extra cellular space, thereby facilitating transport of the Hedgehog signal from cell to cell. Total loss of HS as in ttv mutants or Ext1−/− mice would then result in loss of biological available Hedgehog protein and consequently in a loss of Hedgehog signaling. (2) Increasing concentrations of HS sequester increasing amounts of Hedgehog molecules, thereby restricting Hedgehog activity in a concentration-dependent manner to the source of its expression domain. Fine-tuning the levels of HS would thus provide an important mechanism to regulate the range of Hedgehog acting as a morphogen (Koziel, 2004).

Mutational defects in either EXT1 or EXT2 genes cause multiple exostoses, an autosomal hereditary human disorder. The EXT1 and EXT2 genes encode glycosyltransferases that play an essential role in heparan sulfate chain elongation. Heparan sulfate synthesized by primary fibroblast cell cultures established from mice with a gene trap mutation in Ext1 has been analyzed. The gene trap mutation results in embryonic lethality, and homozygous mice die around embryonic day 14. Metabolic labeling and immunohistochemistry reveals that Ext1 mutant fibroblasts still produce small amounts of heparan sulfate. The domain structure of the mutant heparan sulfate is conserved, and the disaccharide composition is similar to that of wild type heparan sulfate. However, a dramatic difference is seen in the polysaccharide chain length. The average molecular sizes of the heparan sulfate chains from wild type and Ext1 mutant embryonic fibroblasts were estimated to be around 70 and 20 kDa, respectively. These data suggest that not only the sulfation pattern but also the length of the heparan sulfate chains is a critical determinant of normal mouse development (Yamada, 2004).

Ext and Fgf signaling

Heparan sulphate proteoglycans (HSPGs) are known to be crucial for signalling by the secreted Wnt, Hedgehog, Bmp and Fgf proteins during invertebrate development. However, relatively little is known about their effect on developmental signalling in vertebrates. This study reports the analysis of daedalus, a novel zebrafish pectoral fin mutant. Positional cloning identified fgf10 as the gene disrupted in daedalus. fgf10 mutants strongly resemble zebrafish ext2 and extl3 mutants, which encode glycosyltransferases required for heparan sulphate biosynthesis. This suggests that HSPGs are crucial for Fgf10 signalling during limb development. Consistent with this proposal, a strong genetic interaction is observed between fgf10 and extl3 mutants. Furthermore, application of Fgf10 protein can rescue target gene activation in fgf10, but not in ext2 or extl3 mutants. By contrast, application of Fgf4 protein can activate target genes in both ext2 and extl3 mutants, indicating that ext2 and extl3 are differentially required for Fgf10, but not Fgf4, signalling during limb development. This reveals an unexpected specificity of HSPGs in regulating distinct vertebrate Fgfs (Norton, 2005).

Ext genes and axon guidance

Heparan sulfate (HS) is required for morphogen signaling during Drosophila pattern formation, but little is known about its physiological importance in mammalian development. To define the developmental role of HS in mammalian species, the HS-polymerizing enzyme EXT1 was conditionally disrupted in the embryonic mouse brain. The EXT1-null brain exhibits patterning defects that are composites of those caused by mutations of multiple HS-binding morphogens. Furthermore, the EXT1-null brain displays severe guidance errors in major commissural tracts, revealing a pivotal role of HS in midline axon guidance. These findings demonstrate that HS is essential for mammalian brain development (Inatani, 2003a).

Retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons are topographically ordered in the optic tract according to their retinal origin. In zebrafish dackel (dak) and boxer (box) mutants, some dorsal RGC axons missort in the optic tract but innervate the tectum topographically. Molecular cloning reveals that dak and box encode ext2 and extl3, glycosyltransferases implicated in heparan sulfate (HS) biosynthesis. Both genes are required for HS synthesis, as shown by biochemical and immunohistochemical analysis, and are expressed maternally and then ubiquitously, likely playing permissive roles. Missorting in box can be rescued by overexpression of extl3. dak;box double mutants show synthetic pathfinding phenotypes that phenocopy robo2 mutants, suggesting that Robo2 function requires HS in vivo; however, tract sorting does not require Robo function, since it is normal in robo2 null mutants. This genetic evidence that heparan sulfate proteoglycan function is required for optic tract sorting provides clues to begin understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms (Lee, 2004).

Natural history study of hereditary multiple exostoses

Hereditary multiple exostosis (EXT) is an autosomal dominant disorder in which the clinical hallmark is the growth of bony protuberances from long bones and which can cause a variety of orthopedic deformities. This study sought to further delineate the natural history of EXT. In addition, since previous studies have suggested that there are deviations from Mendelian expectations in EXT, including incomplete penetrance and a skewed sex ratio, attempts were made to confirm or refute these suggestions. Both portions of the study were carried out through retrospective review of 43 affected probands and 137 of their affected relatives. Data are presented concerning frequency and severity of complications of EXT including short stature, sequelae of exostoses, occurrence of malignant degeneration of exostoses, and problems in pregnancy and delivery of affected females. Only 2.8% of the total affected population had experienced exostosis-related malignancy, an estimate which is considerably less than earlier reports would suggest. Penetrance was 100%. There was an excess of males within the entire affected population (104:76) and within identified probands (28:15). However, the male to female ratio was unskewed in nuclear families (probands, affected sibs, and parents). The excess of males appears to be related to males having more severe and more frequent complications of EXT than having any primary genetic origin (Wicklund, 1995).

Hereditary multiple exostoses (HME) is a genetically heterogeneous human disease characterized by the development of bony outgrowths near the ends of long bones. HME results from mutations in EXT1 and EXT2, genes that encode glycosyltransferases that synthesize heparan sulfate chains. To study the relationship of the disease to mutations in these genes, Ext2-null mice were generated by gene targeting. Homozygous mutant embryos developed normally until embryonic day 6.0, when they became growth arrested and fail to gastrulate, pointing to the early essential role for heparan sulfate in developing embryos. Heterozygotes have a normal lifespan and are fertile; however, analysis of their skeletons showed that about one-third of the animals formed one or more ectopic bone growths (exostoses). Significantly, all of the mice showed multiple abnormalities in cartilage differentiation, including disorganization of chondrocytes in long bones and premature hypertrophy in costochondral cartilage. These changes are not attributable to a defect in hedgehog signaling, suggesting that they arise from deficiencies in other heparan sulfate-dependent pathways. The finding that haploinsufficiency triggers abnormal cartilage differentiation gives insight into the complex molecular mechanisms underlying the development of exostoses (Stickens, 2005).

tout-velu: Biological Overview | Regulation | Developmental Biology | Effects of Mutation | References

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