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Concept: Glycosylation


COPI mediates retrograde trafficking from the Golgi to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and within the Golgi stack, sorting transmembrane proteins bearing C-terminal KKxx or KxKxx motifs. The structure of KxKxx motifs bound to the N-terminal WD-repeat domain of β'-COP identifies electrostatic contacts between the motif and complementary patches at the center of the β'-COP propeller. An absolute requirement of a two-residue spacing between the terminal carboxylate group and first lysine residue results from interactions of carbonyl groups in the motif backbone with basic side chains of β'-COP. Similar interactions are proposed to mediate binding of KKxx motifs by the homologous α-COP domain. Mutation of key interacting residues in either domain or in their cognate motifs abolishes in vitro binding and results in mistrafficking of dilysine-containing cargo in yeast without compromising cell viability. Flexibility between β'-COP WD-repeat domains and the location of cargo binding have implications for COPI coat assembly.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Glycosylation, Lysosome


O-linked glycosylation is one of the most abundant post-translational modifications of proteins. Within the secretory pathway of higher eukaryotes, the core of these glycans is frequently an N-acetylgalactosamine residue that is α-linked to serine or threonine residues. Glycoside hydrolases in family 101 are presently the only known enzymes to be able to hydrolyze this glycosidic linkage. Here we determine the high-resolution structures of the catalytic domain comprising a fragment of GH101 from Streptococcus pneumoniae TIGR4, SpGH101, in the absence of carbohydrate, and in complex with reaction products, inhibitor, and substrate analogues. Upon substrate binding, a tryptophan lid (residues 724-WNW-726) closes on the substrate. The closing of this lid fully engages the substrate in the active site with D764 positioned directly beneath C1 of the sugar residue bound within the -1 subsite, consistent with its proposed role as the catalytic nucleophile. In all of the bound forms of the enzyme, however, the proposed catalytic acid/base residue was found to be too distant from the glycosidic oxygen (>4.3 Å) to serve directly as a general catalytic acid/base residue and thereby facilitate cleavage of the glycosidic bond. These same complexes, however, revealed a structurally conserved water molecule positioned between the catalytic acid/base and the glycosidic oxygen. On the basis of these structural observations we propose a new variation of the retaining glycoside hydrolase mechanism wherein the intervening water molecule enables a Grotthuss proton shuttle between E796 and the glycosidic oxygen, permitting this residue to serve as the general acid/base catalytic residue.

Concepts: Enzyme, Starch, Polysaccharide, Cellulose, Glycosylation, Carbohydrate chemistry, Glycoside, Carbohydrates


C1 inhibitor (C1INH) is a single-chain glycoprotein that inhibits activation of the contact system of coagulation and the complement system. C1INH isolated from human blood plasma (pd-hC1INH) is used for the management of hereditary angioedema (HAE), a disease caused by heterozygous deficiency of C1INH, and is a promise for treatment of ischemia-reperfusion injuries like acute myocardial or cerebral infarction. To obtain large quantities of C1INH, recombinant human C1INH (rhC1INH) was expressed in the milk of transgenic rabbits (12g/l) harboring genomic human C1INH sequences fused to 5' bovine αS(1) casein promoter sequences. Recombinant hC1INH was isolated from milk to a specific activity of 6.1U/mg and a purity of 99%; by size-exclusion chromatography the 1% impurities consisted of multimers and N-terminal cleaved C1INH species. Mass spectrometric analysis of purified rhC1INH revealed a relative molecular mass (M®) of 67,200. Differences in M® on SDS PAGE and mass spectrometric analysis between rhC1INH and pd-hC1INH are explained by differential glycosylation (calculated carbohydrate contents of 21% and 28%, respectively), since protein sequencing analysis of rhC1INH revealed intact N- and C-termini. Host-related impurity analysis by ELISA revealed trace amounts of rabbit protein (approximately 10ppm) in purified batches, but not endogenous rabbit C1INH. The kinetics of inhibition of the target proteases C1s, Factor XIIa, kallikrein and Factor XIa by rhC1INH and pd-hC1INH, indicated comparable inhibitory potency and specificity. Recently, rhC1INH (Ruconest(®)) has been approved by the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of acute attacks of HAE.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Blood, Coagulation, Complement system, Glycosylation, Angioedema, Hereditary angioedema, C1-inhibitor


Glycosylation, an important posttranslational modification process, can modulate the structure and function of proteins, but its effect on the properties of plasma cells is largely unknown. In this study, we identified a panel of glycoproteins by click reaction with alkynyl sugar analogs in plasma cells coupled with mass spectrometry analysis. The B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA), an essential membrane protein for maintaining the survival of plasma cells, was identified as a glycoprotein exhibiting complex-type N-glycans at a single N-glycosylation site, asparagine 42. We then investigated the effect of N-glycosylation on the function of BCMA and found that the dexamethasone-induced apoptosis in malignant plasma cells can be rescued by treatment with BCMA ligands, such as a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL) and B-cell-activating factor (BAFF), whereas removal of terminal sialic acid on plasma cells further potentiated the ligand-mediated protection. This effect is associated with the increased surface retention of BCMA, leading to its elevated level on cell surface. In addition, the α1-3,-4 fucosylation, but not the terminal sialylation, assists the binding of BCMA with ligands in an in vitro binding assay. Together, our results highlight the importance of N-glycosylation on BCMA in the regulation of ligand binding and functions of plasma cells.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Mass spectrometry, Sialic acid, B cell, Posttranslational modification, Glycosylation, Glycoprotein


Glycosylation is a posttranslational modification that occurs during production of many protein-based biologic drugs and can have a profound impact on their biological, clinical and pharmacological properties. Quality by design (QbD), process optimization, and advance in manufacturing technology create a demand for robust, sensitive, and accurate profiling and quantification of antibody glycosylation. Potential drawbacks in antibody glycosylation profiling include the high hands-on time required for sample preparation and several hours for data acquisition and analysis. Rapid and high-throughput N-glycan profiling and characterization along with automation for sample preparation and analysis are essential for extensive antibody glycosylation analysis due to the substantial improvement of turnaround time. The first part of this review article will focus on the recent progress in rapid and high-throughput sample preparation and analysis of antibody glycosylation. Subsequently, the article will cover a brief overview of various separation and mass spectrometric methods for the rapid and high-throughput (HTP) analysis of N-glycans in antibodies. Finally, we will discuss the recent developments in process analytical technologies (PAT) for the screening and quantification of N-glycans in antibodies. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Posttranslational modification, Lysine, Glycosylation, All rights reserved, Glycoprotein, Glycation, Copyright, Threonine


The cytoplasmic peptide:N-glycanase (Ngly1 in mammals) is a de-N-glycosylating enzyme that is highly conserved among eukaryotes. It was recently reported that subjects harboring mutations in the NGLY1 gene exhibited severe systemic symptoms (NGLY1-deficiency). While the enzyme obviously has a critical role in mammals, its precise function remains unclear. In this study, we analyzed Ngly1-deficient mice and found that they are embryonic lethal in C57BL/6 background. Surprisingly, the additional deletion of the gene encoding endo-β-N-acetylglucosaminidase (Engase), which is another de-N-glycosylating enzyme but leaves a single GlcNAc at glycosylated Asn residues, resulted in the partial rescue of the lethality of the Ngly1-deficient mice. Additionally, we also found that a change in the genetic background of C57BL/6 mice, produced by crossing the mice with an outbred mouse strain (ICR) could partially rescue the embryonic lethality of Ngly1-deficient mice. Viable Ngly1-deficient mice in a C57BL/6 and ICR mixed background, however, showed a very severe phenotype reminiscent of the symptoms of NGLY1-deficiency subjects. Again, many of those defects were strongly suppressed by the additional deletion of Engase in the C57BL/6 and ICR mixed background. The defects observed in Ngly1/Engase-deficient mice (C57BL/6 background) and Ngly1-deficient mice (C57BL/6 and ICR mixed background) closely resembled some of the symptoms of patients with an NGLY1-deficiency. These observations strongly suggest that the Ngly1- or Ngly1/Engase-deficient mice could serve as a valuable animal model for studies related to the pathogenesis of the NGLY1-deficiency, and that cytoplasmic ENGase represents one of the potential therapeutic targets for this genetic disorder.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Cell, Chromosome, Glycosylation, Mouse


Many biopharmaceutical products exhibit extensive structural micro-heterogeneity due to an array of co-occurring post-translational modifications. These modifications often effect the functionality of the product and therefore need to be characterized in detail. Here, we present an integrative approach, combining two advanced mass spectrometry-based methods, high-resolution native mass spectrometry and middle-down proteomics, to analyse this micro-heterogeneity. Taking human erythropoietin and the human plasma properdin as model systems, we demonstrate that this strategy bridges the gap between peptide- and protein-based mass spectrometry platforms, providing the most complete profiling of glycoproteins. Integration of the two methods enabled the discovery of three undescribed C-glycosylation sites on properdin, and revealed in addition unexpected heterogeneity in occupancies of C-mannosylation. Furthermore, using various sources of erythropoietin we define and demonstrate the usage of a biosimilarity score to quantitatively assess structural similarity, which would also be beneficial for profiling other therapeutic proteins and even plasma protein biomarkers.

Concepts: Protein, Protein structure, Erythropoietin, Amino acid, Posttranslational modification, Proteomics, Glycosylation, Glycoprotein


The protozoan intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii forms latent cysts in the central nervous system (CNS) and persists for the lifetime of the host. This cyst is cloaked with a glycosylated structure called the cyst wall. Previously, we demonstrated that a mucin-like glycoprotein, CST1, localizes to the cyst wall and confers structural rigidity on brain cysts in a mucin-like domain-dependent manner. The mucin-like domain of CST1 is composed of 20 units of threonine-rich tandem repeats that are O-GalNAc glycosylated. A family of enzymes termed polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferases (ppGalNAc-Ts) initiates O-GalNAc glycosylation. To identify which isoforms of ppGalNAc-Ts are responsible for the glycosylation of the CST1 mucin-like domain and to evaluate the function of each ppGalNAc-T in the overall glycosylation of the cyst wall, all five ppGalNAc-T isoforms were deleted individually from the T. gondii genome. The ppGalNAc-T2 and -T3 deletion mutants produced various glycosylation defects on the cyst wall, implying that many cyst wall glycoproteins are glycosylated by T2 and T3. Both T2 and T3 glycosylate the CST1 mucin-like domain, and this glycosylation is necessary for CST1 to confer structural rigidity on the cyst wall. We established that T2 is required for the initial glycosylation of the mucin-like domain and that T3 is responsible for the sequential glycosylation on neighboring acceptor sites, demonstrating hierarchical glycosylation by two distinct initiating and filling-in ppGalNAc-Ts in an intact organism.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, DNA, Enzyme, Glycosylation, Toxoplasma gondii, Glycoprotein, Coccidia


Glycosylation, the most abundant posttranslational modification, holds an unprecedented capacity for altering biological function. Our ability to harness glycosylation as a means to control biological systems is hampered by our inability to pinpoint the specific glycans and corresponding biosynthetic enzymes underlying a biological process. Herein we identify glycosylation enzymes acting as regulatory elements within a pathway using microRNA (miRNA) as a proxy. Leveraging the target network of the miRNA-200 family (miR-200f), regulators of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), we pinpoint genes encoding multiple promesenchymal glycosylation enzymes (glycogenes). We focus on three enzymes, beta-1,3-glucosyltransferase (B3GLCT), beta-galactoside alpha-2,3-sialyltransferase 5 (ST3GAL5), and (alpha-N-acetyl-neuraminyl-2,3-beta-galactosyl-1,3)-N-acetylgalactosaminide alpha-2,6-sialyltransferase 5 (ST6GALNAC5), encoding glycans that are difficult to analyze by traditional methods. Silencing these glycogenes phenocopied the effect of miR-200f, inducing mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition. In addition, all three are up-regulated in TGF-β-induced EMT, suggesting tight integration within the EMT-signaling network. Our work indicates that miRNA can act as a relatively simple proxy to decrypt which glycogenes, including those encoding difficult-to-analyze structures (e.g., proteoglycans, glycolipids), are functionally important in a biological pathway, setting the stage for the rapid identification of glycosylation enzymes driving disease states.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Amino acid, RNA, Posttranslational modification, Glycosylation, Glycoprotein, Threonine


HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) is the sole target for broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) and the focus for design of an antibody-based HIV vaccine. The Env trimer is covered by ∼90N-linked glycans, which shield the underlying protein from immune surveillance. bNAbs to HIV develop during infection, with many showing dependence on glycans for binding to Env. The ability to routinely assess the glycan type at each glycosylation site may facilitate design of improved vaccine candidates. Here we present a general mass spectrometry-based proteomics strategy that uses specific endoglycosidases to introduce mass signatures that distinguish peptide glycosites that are unoccupied or occupied by high-mannose/hybrid or complex-type glycans. The method yields >95% sequence coverage for Env, provides semi-quantitative analysis of the glycosylation status at each glycosite. We find that most glycosites in recombinant Env trimers are fully occupied by glycans, varying in the proportion of high-mannose/hybrid and complex-type glycans.

Concepts: HIV, Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Mass, Glycosylation, Carbohydrate chemistry, Gp120