Comparative analysis of structurally defined heparin binding sequences reveals a distinct spatial distribution of basic residues

Hanah Margalit*, Nurit Fischer, Shmuel A. Ben-Sasson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

221 Scopus citations


Heparin, among the best studied glycosaminoglycans, is well known for its involvement in a variety of physiological processes. Many proteins, whose activities are modulated via heparin binding, were identified, and the consequences of their interaction with heparin were characterized. However, in the absence of solid structural information regarding heparin-protein complexes, the mechanism by which heparin operates at the molecular level is still obscure. The structure of such a complex is hereby explored via the identification of a common motif in heparin binding sequences. To avoid ambiguity we included in our data base only sequences that have been shown experimentally to be directly involved in heparin binding. Then, a comparison of the spatial distribution of basic residues was conducted among those peptides for which three-dimensional structures were defined. Using computer graphics techniques we were able to identify a unique distribution shared by all of these segments. Two basic amino acids (most frequently arginine) are located at about 20 A apart, facing opposite directions of an α-helix. Other basic amino acids are dispersed between these two residues, facing one side, while nonpolar residues face the opposite side, forming an amphipathic structure. The distribution of basic amino acids in other heparin binding sequences that preserves the same spatial arrangement seems to be compatible with a β-strand structure. The 20-Å interval accommodates a glycosaminoglycan pentasaccharide, and the spatial distribution of the basic residues suggests an intertwinement of the heparin-protein complex. The dynamics of such an interaction may provide a clue regarding the ensuing change in protein activity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)19228-19231
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number26
StatePublished - 15 Sep 1993


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