Publication date: May 12, 2020
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory demyelinating disease affecting the central nervous system in young adults. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) are ubiquitous to the cell surface and the extracellular matrix. HSPG biosynthesis is a complex process involving enzymatic attachment of heparan sulfate (HS) chains to a core protein. HS side chains mediate specific ligand and growth factor interactions directing cellular processes including cell adhesion, migration and differentiation. Two main families of HSPGs exist, the syndecans (SDC1-4) and glypicans (GPC1-6). The SDCs are transmembrane proteins, while the GPC family are GPI linked to the cell surface. SDC1 has well-documented interactions with numerous signalling pathways. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified regions of the genome associated with MS including a region on chromosome 13 containing GPC5 and GPC6. International studies have revealed significant associations between this region and disease development. The exostosin-1 (EXT1) and sulfatase-1 (SULF1) are key enzymes contributing to the generation of HS chains. EXT1, with documented tumour suppressor properties, is involved in the initiation and polymerisation of the growing HS chain. SULF1 removes 6-O-sulfate groups from HS chains, affecting protein-ligand interactions and subsequent downstream signalling with HS modification potentially having significant effects on MS progression. In this study, we identified significant associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms in SDC1, GPC5 and GPC6 and MS in an Australian Caucasian case-control population. Further significant associations in these genes were identified when the population was stratified by sex and disease subtype. No association was found for EXT1 or SULF1.