Background: Heparan sulfate (HS) is a glycosaminoglycan that is anchored to the outside of cell membranes. Under ordinary circumstances, it is not present in the interstitium, but under certain circumstances, mainly in the setting of inflammation and tissue repair, HS can be shed from the cell surface into the interstitium in a regulated fashion. Under these circumstances, interstitial HS seems to have an immunomodulatory function because of its binding of many cytokines. However, it is not known which cell types present at an inflammatory site are responsible for this shedding. Objective: We have investigated the presence of interstitial HS by immunohistochemistry in various inflammatory skin diseases characterized by different compositions of the inflammatory infiltrate. Results: Strong interstitial HS immunoreactivity was present only in diseases with a predominantly histiocytic infiltrate but not in diseases with a predominantly lymphocytic or neutrophilic infiltrate. Conclusions: This indicates that histiocytes have a direct or indirect role in the HS shedding process. In the well-formed granulomas of sarcoidosis, interstitial HS immunoreactivity was spatially associated with the fibrotic ring at the periphery of the granulomas, but not with the center harboring the histiocytes. This suggests that histiocytes can stimulate fibroblasts to shed HS into the interstitium.
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