Determination of the Structural Requirements for Modification of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Angiogenic Activity by Heparan Sulfate Oligosaccharides

  • Andrew Hamilton

Student thesis: Phd


Clinical manipulation of angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing vasculature) is of interest to treat diseases such as cancer and ischemic tissue where it is not properly regulated. Several treatments targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptors - which are abundant at sites of angiogenesis - are currently in use to treat various types of cancer, however they have severe vascular side effects. Conversely, VEGF has been used clinically to promote angiogenesis to treat ischemic tissue. However, despite encouraging data from pre-clinical models, trials in humans have been disappointing. For further therapies to be developed, more information on how VEGF interacts with its receptors is required.Heparan sulfate (HS) is a ubiquitous glycosaminoglycan involved in a number of physiological processes including angiogenesis. HS facilitates the interaction of VEGF with its receptors, which is crucial for angiogenesis. Modification of this interaction via synthetic mimetics of HS may allow clinical intervention of angiogenesis. The current investigation aims first, to clarify the requirement for the interaction between VEGF and HS in angiogenesis; second to characterise the structure of HS that binds to VEGF so that mimetics can be developed; and third, to determine the effect of HS mimetics on angiogenesis in vivo.To determine the requirement for VEGF/HS interaction in angiogenesis, several mutants of VEGF165 that had lower affinities for HS were assayed for their ability to induce ectopic angiogenesis in the subintestinal baskets of zebrafish embryos. Wild type VEGF165 induced a 200-250% increase in ectopic vessels, which was matched only by a control mutant. Other mutants did not induce ectopic vessels, suggesting that this interaction is required for angiogenesis.To characterise the structure of HS that binds to VEGF, various HS mimetics were assayed against heparin in a VEGF competition assay using Biacore. Of these, the strongest inhibition (ICĀ¬50 =~16nM) was with 2O10, an oligosaccharide that consisted of two highly sulfated octasaccharide domains (NS domains) that flanked an unsulfated dodecasaccharide region. To determine the type of sulfation required for this interaction, HS fragments were assayed for interaction with VEGF165 using the filter binding assay, and analysed by HPLC which indicated 6-O sulfation may be preferential for VEGF binding to HS.To investigate the ability of HS to affect angiogenesis, the effects of HS mimetics on zebrafish embryo subintestinal baskets were measured. The most interesting of these was with 2O10, which had a biphasic response whereby low doses (3ng) increased basket vasculature by 30% and high doses (30ng) decreased the endogenous vessels by 20%. As 2O10 had a high affinity for VEGF, its effects on the vasculature may be due to interaction with endogenous VEGF, which would indicate that HS mimetics can be used to control angiogenesis by modification of growth factor signalling. The investigation concludes that the interaction between VEGF and HS is critical for angiogenesis, and that this can be modulated by the application of HS mimetics that bind strongly to VEGF.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSally Stringer (Supervisor) & Anthony Day (Supervisor)


  • vascular endothelial growth factor
  • heparan sulfate
  • angiogenesis

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