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Hyaluronic Acid



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“Hyaluronan (also called hyaluronic acid or hyaluronate or HA) is an anionic, nonsulfated glycosaminoglycan distributed widely throughout connective, epithelial, and neural tissues. It is unique among glycosaminoglycans in that it is nonsulfated, forms in the plasma membrane instead of the Golgi, and can be very large, with its molecular weight often reaching the millions.  One of the chief components of the extracellular matrix, hyaluronan contributes significantly to cell proliferation and migration, and may also be involved in the progression of some malignant tumors.

The average 70 kg (154 lbs) person has roughly 15 grams of hyaluronan in the body, one-third of which is turned over (degraded and synthesized) every day.  Hyaluronic acid is also a component of the group A streptococcal extracellular capsule, and is believed to play a role in virulence.

Until the late 1970s, hyaluronan was described as a "goo" molecule, a ubiquitous carbohydrate polymer that is part of the extracellular matrix.  For example, hyaluronan is a major component of the synovial fluid, and was found to increase the viscosity of the fluid. Along with lubricin, it is one of the fluid's main lubricating components.

Hyaluronan is an important component of articular cartilage, where it is present as a coat around each cell (chondrocyte).  When aggrecan monomers bind to hyaluronan in the presence of link protein, large highly negatively-charged aggregates form.  These aggregates imbibe water and are responsible for the resilience of cartilage (its resistance to compression). The molecular weight (size) of hyaluronan in cartilage decreases with age, but the amount increases.

Hyaluronan is also a major component of skin, where it is involved in tissue repair.  When skin is exposed to excessive UVB rays, it becomes inflamed (sunburn) and the cells in the dermis stop producing as much hyaluronan, and increase the rate of its degradation. Hyaluronan degradation products then accumulate in the skin after UV exposure.

While it is abundant in extracellular matrices, hyaluronan also contributes to tissue hydrodynamics, movement and proliferation of cells, and participates in a number of cell surface receptor interactions, notably those including its primary receptors, CD44 and RHAMM.  Upregulation of CD44 itself is widely accepted as a marker of cell activation in lymphocytes. Hyaluronan's contribution to tumor growth may be due to its interaction with CD44. Receptor CD44 participates in cell adhesion interactions required by tumor cells.

Although hyaluronan binds to receptor CD44, there is evidence hyaluronan degradation products transduce their inflammatory signal through toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2), TLR4 or both TLR2, and TLR4 in macrophages and dendritic cells. TLR and hyaluronan play a role in innate immunity.

High concentrations of hyaluronan in the brains of young rats, and reduced concentrations in the brains of adult rats suggest hyaluronan plays an important role in brain development.

Properties of hyaluronan were first determined in the 1930s in the laboratory of Karl Meyer.

Hyaluronan is a polymer of disaccharides, themselves composed of D-glucuronic acid and D-N-acetylglucosamine, linked via alternating β-1,4 and β-1,3 glycosidic bonds. Hyaluronan can be 25,000 disaccharide repeats in length. Polymers of hyaluronan can range in size from 5,000 to 20,000,000 Da in vivo. The average molecular weight in human synovial fluid is 3−4 million Da, and hyaluronan purified from human umbilical cord is 3,140,000 Da.[12]

Hyaluronan is energetically stable, in part because of the stereochemistry of its component disaccharides. Bulky groups on each sugar molecule are in sterically favored positions, whereas the smaller hydrogens assume the less-favorable axial positions.”

(Wikipedia, Hyaluronic Acid, 5/29/2012)


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Roger D. Corneliussen

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Copyright 2012 by Roger D. Corneliussen.
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* Date of latest addition; date of first entry is 5/29/2012.