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Removal of cell surface heparan sulfate increases TACE activity and cleavage of ErbB4 receptor

Jorma A Määttä12*, Kaisa Olli2, Tiina Henttinen2, Minna T Tuittila2, Klaus Elenius3 and Markku Salmivirta

Author Affiliations

1 Turku Center for Disease Modeling/Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Turku, Turku, Finland

2 Turku Centre for Biotechnology, University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland

3 Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Medicity Research Laboratory, University of Turku, Turku, Finland

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BMC Cell Biology 2009, 10:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-10-5

Published: 26 January 2009



Nuclear localization of proteolytically formed intracellular fragment of ErbB4 receptor tyrosine kinase has been shown to promote cell survival, and nuclear localization of ErbB4 receptor has been described in human breast cancer. Tumor necrosis factor alpha converting enzyme (TACE) initiates the proteolytic cascade leading to ErbB4 intracellular domain formation. Interactions between matrix metalloproteases and heparan sulfate have been described, but the effect of cell surface heparan sulfate on TACE activity has not been previously described.


As indicated by immunodetection of increased ErbB4 intracellular domain formation and direct enzyme activity analysis, TACE activity was substantially amplified by enzymatic removal of cell surface heparan sulfate but not chondroitin sulfate.


In this communication, we suggest a novel role for cell surface heparan sulfate. Removal of cell surface heparan sulfate led to increased formation of ErbB4 intracellular domain. As ErbB4 intracellular domain has previously been shown to promote cell survival this finding may indicate a novel mechanism how HS degradation active in tumor tissue may favor cell survival.