In Vivo Hyaluronan Synthesis upon Expression of the Mammalian Hyaluronan Synthase Gene in Drosophila

Satomi Takeo, Momoko Fujise, Takuya Akiyama, Hiroko Habuchi, Naoki Itano, Takashi Matsuo, Toshiro Aigaki, Koji Kimata, Hiroshi Nakato

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21 Scopus citations


Hyaluronan (HA) is a large linear polymer of repeating disaccharides of glucuronic acid and GlcNAc. Although HA is widely distributed in vertebrate animals, it has not been found in invertebrates, including insect species. Insects utilize chitin, a repeating β-1,4-linked homopolymer of GlcNAc, as a major component of their exoskeleton. Recent studies illustrate the similarities in the biosynthetic mechanisms of HA and chitin and suggest that HA synthase (HAS) and chitin synthase have evolved from a common ancestral molecule. Although the biochemical properties and in vivo functions of HAS proteins have been extensively studied, the molecular basis for HA biosynthesis is not completely understood. For example, it is currently not clear if proper chain elongation and secretion of HA require other components in addition to HAS. Here, we demonstrate that a non-HA-synthesizing animal, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, can produce HA in vivo when a single HAS protein is introduced. Expression of the mouse HAS2 gene in Drosophila tissues by the Gal4/UAS (up-stream activating sequence) system resulted in massive HA accumulation in the extracellular space and caused various morphological defects. These morphological abnormalities were ascribed to disordered cell-cell communications due to accumulation of HA rather than disruption of heparan sulfate synthesis. We also show that adult wings with HA can hold a high level of water. These findings demonstrate that organisms synthesizing chitin (but not HA) are capable of producing HA that is structurally and functionally relevant to that in mammals. The ability of insect cells to produce HA supports the idea that in vivo HA biosynthesis does not require molecules other than the HAS protein. An alternative model is that Drosophila cells use endogenous components of the chitin biosynthetic machinery to produce and secrete HA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18920-18925
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number18
StatePublished - Apr 30 2004

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