Endothelial Glycocalyx as a Shield Against Diabetic Vascular Complications: Involvement of Hyaluronan and Hyaluronidases

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The endothelial glycocalyx (EG), which covers the apical surface of the endothelial cells and floats into the lumen of the vessels, is a key player in vascular integrity and cardiovascular homeostasis. The EG is composed of PGs (proteoglycans), glycoproteins, glycolipids, and glycosaminoglycans, in particular hyaluronan (HA). HA seems to be implicated in most of the functions described for EG such as creating a space between blood and the endothelium, controlling vessel permeability, restricting leukocyte and platelet adhesion, and allowing an appropriate endothelial response to flow variation through mechanosensing. The amount of HA in the EG may be regulated by HYAL (hyaluronidase) 1, the most active somatic hyaluronidase. HYAL1 seems enriched in endothelial cells through endocytosis from the bloodstream. The role of the other main somatic hyaluronidase, HYAL2, in the EG is uncertain. Damage to the EG, accompanied by shedding of one or more of its components, is an early sign of various pathologies including diabetes mellitus. Shedding increases the blood or plasma concentration of several EG components, such as HA, heparan sulfate, and syndecan. The plasma levels of these molecules can then be used as sensitive markers of EG degradation. This has been shown in type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients. Recent experimental studies suggest that preserving the size and amount of EG HA in the face of diabetic insults could be a useful novel therapeutic strategy to slow diabetic complications. One way to achieve this goal, as suggested by a murine model of HYAL1 deficiency, may be to inhibit the function of HYAL1. The same approach may succeed in other pathological situations involving endothelial dysfunction and EG damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1427-1439
Number of pages13
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes mellitus
  • endothelial cells
  • glycocalyx
  • hyaluronic acid
  • permeability
  • Glycocalyx/drug effects
  • Endothelial Cells/drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid/metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus/diagnosis
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular
  • Animals
  • Endothelium, Vascular/drug effects
  • Diabetic Angiopathies/diagnosis
  • Enzyme Inhibitors/therapeutic use
  • Hyaluronoglucosaminidase/antagonists & inhibitors


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