Secretin is a peptide hormone that exerts pleiotropic physiological functions by specifically binding to its cognate membrane-bound receptor. The membrane catalysis model of peptide–receptor interactions states that soluble peptidic ligands initially interact with the plasma membrane. This interaction increases the local concentration and structures the peptide, enhancing the rate of receptor binding. However, this model does not consider the dense network of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) at the surface of eukaryotic cells. These sulfated polysaccharide chains are known to sequester numerous proteic signaling molecules. In the present study, we evaluated the interaction between the peptide hormone secretin and sulfated GAGs and its contribution to cell surface binding. Using GAG-deficient cells and competition experiments with soluble GAGs, we observed by confocal microscopy and flow cytometry that GAGs mediate the sequestration of secretin at the cell surface. Isothermal titration calorimetry and surface plasmon resonance revealed that secretin binds to heparin with dissociation constants ranging between 0.9 and 4 μM. By designing secretin derivatives with a restricted conformational ensemble, we observed that this interaction is mediated by the presence of a specific conformational GAG-recognition motif that decorates the surface of the peptide upon helical folding. The present study identifies secretin as a novel GAG-binding polypeptide and opens new research direction on the functional role of GAGs in the biology of secretin.

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