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The agouti-related peptide binds heparan sulfate through segments critical for its orexigenic effects


Syndecans potently modulate agouti-related peptide (AgRP) signaling in the central melanocortin system. Through heparan sulfate moieties, syndecans are thought to anchor AgRP near its receptor, enhancing its orexigenic effects. Original work proposed that the N-terminal domain of AgRP facilitates this interaction. However, this is not compatible with evidence that this domain is posttranslationally cleaved. Addressing this long-standing incongruity, we used calorimetry and magnetic resonance to probe interactions of AgRP peptides with glycosaminoglycans, including heparan sulfate. We show that mature, cleaved, C-terminal AgRP, not the N-terminal domain, binds heparan sulfate. NMR shows that the binding site consists of regions distinct from the melanocortin receptor-binding site. Using a library of designed AgRP variants, we find that the strength of the syndecan interaction perfectly tracks orexigenic action. Our data provide compelling evidence that AgRP is a heparan sulfate-binding protein and localizes critical regions in the AgRP structure required for this interaction.

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