Structural and Functional Studies on the G1 Domain of Human Versican

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Simon Foulcer


The chondroitin sulphate proteoglycan (CSPG) versican forms complexes with hyaluronan (HA), which are essential in a range of functions including cellular proliferation and migration. Four isoforms of versican result from alternative splicing. Furthermore, biological roles have been identified for the proteolytic cleavage product of versican which contains the N-terminal G1 hyaluronan binding domain. All of these versican forms have different tightly regulated tissue expression profiles. Consequently, impaired regulation is associated with a number of disease pathologies. For example the largest variants (V0/V1) have been shown to be negative indicators of disease outcome in a number of malignant cancers and are a marker of disease progression in atherosclerosis. Interestingly, the smaller versican isoform V3 which lacks CS chains has been demonstrated to have the potential to reverse disease associated phenotypes. The motivation for carrying out the work in this thesis was to try and gain a better understanding of how versican functions on a molecular scale. In this regard, the first aim was to investigate the structure of the hyaluronan binding region of versican using a construct called VG1. The structure of VG1 was analysed in the presence and absence of hyaluronan oligomers. This revealed an insight into the multi-modular structure of the versican hyaluronan binding region and demonstrated that on binding to HA, VG1 under goes a conformational change. Furthermore, the interaction between VG1 and longer lengths of hyaluronan (pHA) was investigated. This demonstrated that when VG1 binds to pHA it is does so with positive cooperativity, packing very close to neighbouring VG1 molecules along a chain of HA. One consequence of this interaction was to reorganise pHA into a helical conformation, an organisation that was confirmed by a number of solution phase techniques. The effect of this reorganisation of pHA by VG1 on HA/CD44 interactions was also assessed. Previously the interaction between CD44 (a cell surface hyaluronan receptor) and long chains of HA (>30 kDa) was shown to be irreversible; however we demonstrate that VG1 can reverse this. Furthermore, a TSG-6 enhanced CD44/interaction was also completely reversed by the addition of VG1. This provides an indication that a functional hierarchy of hyaluronan binding proteins may exist which could have important implications in understanding the function of hyaluronan complexes.Currently, we do not know whether intact versican molecules could interact with HA in the same way as VG1. However, preliminary data suggests that the CS-containing variants (i.e. V0, V1 and V2) would not, whereas V3 and versican fragments could. This work provides an exciting mechanistic insight into the function of versican variants and their breakdown products.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2012