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Development 131 (9): 1927-1938

Abrogation of heparan sulfate synthesis in Drosophila disrupts the Wingless, Hedgehog and Decapentaplegic signaling pathways

Douglas J. Bornemann1, Jason E. Duncan2, William Staatz3, Scott Selleck4, and Rahul Warrior1,*

1 Developmental and Cell Biology, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
2 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
3 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
4 Departments of Pediatrics and Genetics, Cell Biology and Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

* Author for correspondence (e-mail: rwarrior{at}

Accepted for publication 5 January 2004.

Abstract: Studies in Drosophila and vertebrate systems have demonstrated that heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) play crucial roles in modulating growth factor signaling. We have isolated mutations in sister of tout velu (sotv), a gene that encodes a co-polymerase that synthesizes HSPG glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chains. Our phenotypic and biochemical analyses reveal that HS levels are dramatically reduced in the absence of Sotv or its partner co-polymerase Tout velu (Ttv), suggesting that both copolymerases are essential for GAG synthesis. Furthermore, we find that mutations in sotv and ttv impair Hh, Wg and Decapentaplegic (Dpp) signaling. This contrasts with previous studies that suggested loss of ttv compromises only Hh signaling. Our results may contribute to understanding the biological basis of hereditary multiple exostoses (HME), a disease associated with bone overgrowth that results from mutations in EXT1 and EXT2, the human orthologs of ttv and sotv.

Key Words: Growth factor signaling • Heparan sulfate proteoglycan • Hedgehog • Wingless • Decapentaplegic • Tout velu • Sister of tout velu • Hereditary multiple exostoses • EXT1 • EXT2

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