Heparin has been used as a clinical anticoagulant for more than 50 years, making it one of the most effective pharmacological agents known. Much of heparin's activity can be traced to its ability to bind antithrombin III (AT-III). Low molecular weight heparin (LMWH), derived from heparin by its controlled breakdown, maintains much of the antithrombotic activity of heparin without many of the serious side effects. The clinical significance of LMWH has highlighted the need to understand and develop chemical or enzymatic means to generate it. The primary enzymatic tools used for the production of LMWH are the heparinases from Flavobacterium heparinum, specifically heparinases I and II. Using pentasaccharide and hexasaccharide model compounds, we show that heparinases I and II, but not heparinase III, cleave the AT-III binding site, leaving only a partially intact site. Furthermore, we show herein that glucosamine 3-O sulfation at the reducing end of a glycosidic linkage imparts resistance to heparinase I, II, and III cleavage. Finally, we examine the biological and pharmacological consequences of a heparin oligosaccharide that contains only a partial AT-III binding site. We show that such an oligosaccharide lacks some of the functional attributes of heparin- and heparan sulfate-like glycosaminoglycans containing an intact AT-III site
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