We have proposed a model in which fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signalling requires the interaction of FGF with at least two FGF receptors, a heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) and a tyrosine kinase. Since FGF may be a key mediator of skeletal muscle differentiation, we examined the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans in MM14 skeletal muscle myoblasts and their participation in FGF signalling. Proliferating and differentiated MM14 cells exhibit similar levels of HSPG, while differentiated cells exhibit reduced levels of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans and heparan sulfate chains. HSPGs, including syndecan, present in proliferating cells bind bFGF, while the majority of chondroitin sulfate and heparan sulfate chains do not. Treatment of skeletal muscle cells with chlorate, a reversible inhibitor of glycosaminoglycan sulfation, was used to examine the requirement of sulfated proteoglycans for FGF signalling. Chlorate treatment reduced glycosaminoglycan sulfation by 90% and binding of FGF to high affinity sites by 80%. Chlorate treatment of MM14 myoblasts abrogated the biological activity of acidic, basic, and Kaposi's sarcoma FGFs resulting in terminal differentiation. Chlorate inhibition of FGF signalling was reversed by the simultaneous addition of sodium sulfate or heparin. Further support for a direct role of heparan sulfate proteoglycans in fibroblast growth factor signal transduction was demonstrated by the ability of heparitinase to inhibit basic FGF binding and biological activity. These results suggest that activation of FGF receptors by acidic, basic or Kaposi's sarcoma FGF requires simultaneous binding to a HSPG and the tyrosine kinase receptor. Skeletal muscle differentiation in vivo may be dependent on FGFs, FGF tyrosine kinase receptors, and HSPGs. The regulation of these molecules may then be expected to have important implications for skeletal muscle development and regeneration.

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