Electrostatic Forces as Dominant Interactions Between Proteins and Polyanions: an ESI MS Study of Fibroblast Growth Factor Binding to Heparin Oligomers.
Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) 1 and FGF-2 are prototypic members of the FGF family, which to date comprises at least 18 members. Surprisingly, even though FGF-1 and FGF-2 share more than 80% sequence similarity and an identical structural fold, these two growth factors are biologically very different. FGF-1 and FGF-2 differ in their ability to bind isoforms of the FGF receptor family as well as the heparin-like glycosaminoglycan (HLGAG) component of proteoglycans on the cell surface to initiate signaling in different cell types. Herein, we provide evidence for one mechanism by which these two proteins could differ biologically. Previously, it has been noted that FGF-1 and FGF-2 can oligomerize in the presence of HLGAGs. Therefore, we investigated whether FGF-1 and FGF-2 oligomerize by the same mechanism or by a different one. Through a combination of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry and chemical crosslinking, we show here that, under identical conditions, FGF-1 and FGF-2 differ in the degree and kind of oligomerization. Furthermore, an extensive analysis of FGF-1 and FGF-2 uncomplexed and HLGAG complexed crystal structures enables us to readily explain why FGF-2 forms sequential oligomers whereas FGF-1 forms only dimers. FGF-2, which possesses an interface capable of protein association, forms a translationally related oligomer, whereas FGF-1, which does not have this interface, forms only a symmetrically related dimer. Taken together, these data show that FGF-1 and FGF-2, despite their sequence homology, differ in their mechanism of oligomerization.