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Sugar mimics guide stem cells toward neural fate

Date:
July 30, 2014
Source:
University of California - San Diego
Summary:
Many growth factors that influence the fate of embryonic stem cells must bind to sugars attached to specific receptors on the surface of the cell to work. Because the sugars are difficult to manipulate, biochemists created synthetic stand ins that helped to identify substructures recognized by a growth factor involved in neural development.
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FULL STORY

Embryonic stem cells can develop into a multitude of cells types. Researchers would like to understand how to channel that development into the specific types of mature cells that make up the organs and other structures of living organisms.

One key seems to be long chains of sugars that dangle from proteins on surfaces of cells.

Kamil Godula's group at the University of California, San Diego, has created synthetic molecules that can stand in for the natural sugars, but can be more easily manipulated to direct the process, they report in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

A variety of growth factors influence the fate of embryonic stem cells. All bind to specific receptors on the surface of the cell, but many must also bind to these sugars to exert their influence.

The natural sugar structures are difficult to manage, so Godula's group strung small sugar fragments together to create synthetic versions. They used these 'glycopolymers' to figure out how specific growth factors recognize sugars on the surface of cells.

By tagging individual glycopolymers, they were able to identify sugar substructures with the greatest affinity for fibroblast growth factor 2, one of the growth factors involved in neural development.

To test their mimetic molecules in a living system, they slipped successful versions into the into membranes of mouse embryonic stem cells that lack the natural form of the sugar. Six days later, these cells transformed into 'neural rosettes,' precursors of many types of mature neural cells. Untreated cells didn't.

Godula's group is working on a number of similar molecular mimics to explore a variety of developmental pathways.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of California - San Diego. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mia L. Huang, Raymond A. A. Smith, Greg W. Trieger, Kamil Godula. Glycocalyx Remodeling with Proteoglycan Mimetics Promotes Neural Specification in Embryonic Stem Cells. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2014; 136 (30): 10565 DOI: 10.1021/ja505012a

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University of California - San Diego. "Sugar mimics guide stem cells toward neural fate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140730094045.htm>.
University of California - San Diego. (2014, July 30). Sugar mimics guide stem cells toward neural fate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140730094045.htm
University of California - San Diego. "Sugar mimics guide stem cells toward neural fate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140730094045.htm (accessed August 29, 2015).

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