We have devised a sensitive method for the isolation and structural analysis of glycosaminoglycans from two genetically tractable model organisms, the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans. We detected chondroitin/chondroitin sulfate- and heparan sulfate-derived disaccharides in both organisms. Chondroitinase digestion of glycosaminoglycans from adult Drosophila produced both nonsulfated and 4-O-sulfated unsaturated disaccharides, whereas only unsulfated forms were detected in C. elegans. Heparin lyases released disaccharides bearing N-, 2-O-, and 6-O-sulfated species, including mono-, di-, and trisulfated forms. We observed tissue- and stage-specific differences in both chondroitin sulfate and heparan sulfate composition in Drosophila. We have also applied these methods toward the analysis of tout- velu, an EXT-related gene in Drosophila that controls the tissue distribution of the growth factor Hedgehog. The proteins encoded by the vertebrate tumor suppressor genes EXT1 and 2, show heparan sulfate co-polymerase activity, and it has been proposed that tout-velu affects Hedgehog activity via its role in heparan sulfate biosynthesis. Analysis of total glycosaminoglycans from tout- velu mutant larvae show marked reductions in heparan sulfate but not chondroitin sulfate, consistent with its proposed function as a heparan surf ate co-polymerase.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology