Astrocytes modulate many aspects of neuronal function, including synapse formation and the response to injury. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) mediate some of the effects of astrocytes on synaptic function, and participate in the astrocyte-mediated brain injury response. HSPGs are a highly conserved class of proteoglycans, with variable heparan sulfate (HS) chains that play a major role in determining the function of these proteins, such as binding to growth factors and receptors. Expression of both the core proteins and their HS chains can vary depending on cellular origin, thus the functional impact of HSPGs may be determined by the cell type in which they are expressed. In the brain, HSPGs are expressed by both neurons and astrocytes; however, the specific contribution of neuronal HSPGs compared with astrocyte-derived HSPGs to development and the injury response is largely unknown. The present review examines the current evidence regarding the roles of HSPGs in the brain, describes the cellular origins of HSPGs, and interrogates the roles of HSPGs from astrocytes and neurons in synaptogenesis and injury. The importance of considering cell-type-specific expression of HSPGs when studying brain function is discussed.

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