Cell-surface prion protein interacts with glycosaminoglycans

Tao Pan, Boon Seng Wong, Tong Liu, Ruliang Li, Robert B. Petersen, Man Sun Sy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


We used ELISA and flow cytometry to study the binding of prion protein PrP to glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). We found that recombinant human PrP (rPrP) binds GAGs including chondroitin sulphate A, chondroitin sulphate B, hyaluronic acid, and heparin. rPrP binding to GAGs occurs via the N-terminus, a region known to bind divalent cations. Additionally, rPrP binding to GAGs is enhanced in the presence of Cu2+ and Zn2+, but not Ca2+ and Mn2+. rPrP binds heparin strongest, and the binding is inhibited by certain heparin analogues, including heparin disaccharide and sulphate-containing monosaccharides, but not by acetylated heparin. Full-length normal cellular prion protein (PrPC), but not N-terminally truncated PrPC species, from human brain bind GAGs in a similar Cu2+/Zn2+-enhanced fashion. We found that GAGs specifically bind to a synthetic peptide corresponding to amino acid residues 23-35 in the N-terminus of rPrP. We further demonstrated that while both wild-type PrPC and an octapeptide-repeat-deleted mutant PrP produced by transfected cells bound heparin at the cell surface, the PrP N-terminal deletion mutant and non-transfectant control failed to bind heparin. Binding of heparin to wild-type PrPC on the cell surface results in a reduction of the level of cell-surface PrPC. These results provide strong evidence that PrPC is a surface receptor for GAGs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-90
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 15 2002


  • Glycosaminoglycan (GAG)
  • Heparin


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