Multivalent proteoglycan modulation of FGF mitogenic responses in perivascular cells

Sabrina Cattaruzza, Ugur Ozerdem, Martin Denzel, Barbara Ranscht, Pietro Bulian, Ugo Cavallaro, Daniela Zanocco, Alfonso Colombatti, William B. Stallcup, Roberto Perris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sprouting of angiogenic perivascular cells is thought to be highly dependent upon autocrine and paracrine growth factor stimulation. Accordingly, we report that corneal angiogenesis induced by ectopic FGF implantation is strongly impaired in NG2/CSPG4 proteoglycan (PG) null mice known to harbour a putative deficit in pericyte proliferation/mobilization. Conversely, no significant differences were seen between wild type and knockout corneas when VEGF was used as an angiocrine factor. Perturbed responsiveness of NG2-deficient pericytes to paracrine and autocrine stimulation by several FGFs could be confirmed in cells isolated from NG2 null mice, while proliferation induced by other growth factors was equivalent in wild type and knockout cells. Identical results were obtained after siRNA-mediated knock-down of NG2 in human smooth muscle-like cell lines, as also demonstrated by the decreased levels of FGF receptor phosphorylation detected in these NG2 deprived cells. Binding assays with recombinant proteins and molecular interactions examined on live cells asserted that FGF-2 bound to NG2 in a glycosaminoglycan-independent, core protein-mediated manner and that the PG was alone capable of retaining FGF-2 on the cell membrane for subsequent receptor presentation. The use of dominant-negative mutant cells, engineered by combined transduction of NG2 deletion constructs and siRNA knock-down of the endogenous PG, allowed us to establish that the FGF co-receptor activity of NG2 is entirely mediated by its extracellular portion. In fact, forced overexpression of the NG2 ectodomain in human smooth muscle-like cells increased their FGF-2-induced mitosis and compensated for low levels of FGF receptor surface expression, in a manner equivalent to that produced by overexpression of the full-length NG2. Upon FGF binding, the cytoplasmic domain of NG2 is phosphorylated, but there is no evidence that this event elicits signal transductions that could bypass the FGFR-mediated ones. Pull-down experiments, protein-protein binding assays and flow cytometry FRET coherently revealed an elective ligand-independent association of NG2 with FGFR1 and FGFR3. The NG2 cooperation with these receptors was also corroborated functionally by the outcome of FGF-2 treatments of cells engineered to express diverse NG2/FGFR combinations. Comprehensively, the findings suggest that perivascular NG2 may serve as a dual modulator of the availability/accessibility of FGF at the cell membrane, as well as the resulting FGFR transducing activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-327
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Angiogenesis
  • FGF signalling
  • NG2/CSPG4
  • Pericytes
  • Proteoglycan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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