Nucleotide-sugar transporter SLC35D1 is critical to chondroitin sulfate synthesis in cartilage and skeletal development in mouse and human.

Nature Medicine 13(11):1363 (2007) PMID 17952091

Proteoglycans are a family of extracellular macromolecules comprised of glycosaminoglycan chains of a repeated disaccharide linked to a central core protein. Proteoglycans have critical roles in chondrogenesis and skeletal development. The glycosaminoglycan chains found in cartilage proteoglycans are primarily composed of chondroitin sulfate. The integrity of chondroitin sulfate chains is important to cartilage proteoglycan function; however, chondroitin sulfate metabolism in mammals remains poorly understood. The solute carrier-35 D1 (SLC35D1) gene (SLC35D1) encodes an endoplasmic reticulum nucleotide-sugar transporter (NST) that might transport substrates needed for chondroitin sulfate biosynthesis. Here we created Slc35d1-deficient mice that develop a lethal form of skeletal dysplasia with severe shortening of limbs and facial structures. Epiphyseal cartilage in homozygous mutant mice showed a decreased proliferating zone with round chondrocytes, scarce matrices and reduced proteoglycan aggregates. These mice had short, sparse chondroitin sulfate chains caused by a defect in chondroitin sulfate biosynthesis. We also identified that loss-of-function mutations in human SLC35D1 cause Schneckenbecken dysplasia, a severe skeletal dysplasia. Our findings highlight the crucial role of NSTs in proteoglycan function and cartilage metabolism, thus revealing a new paradigm for skeletal disease and glycobiology.