Glycosyltransferases: What’s New in GT Assays?

In his 2014 blog, “Why We Care About Glycosyltransferases” Michael Curtin, Promega Global Product Manager for Cell Signaling, wrote:

“Glycobiology is the study of carbohydrates and their role in biology. Glycans, defined as ‘compounds consisting of a large number of monosaccharides linked glycosidically’ are present in all living cells; They coat cell membranes and are integral components of cell walls. They play diverse roles, including critical functions in cell signaling, molecular recognition, immunity and inflammation. They are the cell-surface molecules that define the ABO blood groups and must be taken into consideration to ensure successful blood transfusions.

The process by which a sugar moiety is attached to a biological compound is referred to as glycosylation. Protein glycosylation is a form of post-translational modification, which is important for many biological processes and often serves as an analog switch that modulates protein activity. The class of enzymes responsible for transferring the sugar moiety onto proteins is called a glycosyltransferase (GT).”

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Sample preparation: A critical step for consistent protein phosphorylation data

MSextractcroppedProtein phosphorylation is a very important protein post-translational modification that controls many cellular processes including metabolism, transcriptional and translation regulation, degradation of proteins, cellular signaling and communication, proliferation, differentiation, and cell survival (1). Approximately 35% of human proteins are phosphorylated. Phosphoproteins are low in abundance, and, therefore, are challenging to detect and characterize by mass spectrometry. Different enrichment systems have been developed to isolate phosphopeptides. Among these techniques, immobilized metal affinity chromatography (IMAC) using Fe3+ and Ga3+ has been widely used for the enrichment of phosphopeptides.

Typical experimental workflows are tedious and consist of numerous steps, including sample collection and cell lysis. One of the major challenges of the process is to maintain the in vivo phosphorylation state of the proteins throughout the preparation process

To evaluate the effect of sample collection protocols on the global phosphorylation status of the cell, a recent paper by Kashin et al. compared different sample workflows by metabolic labeling and quantitative mass spectrometry on Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell cultures (2).

Three different sample collection workflows were evaluated: two that used denaturating conditions and involved mixing of cell cultures with an excess of either ethanol (EtOH) at −80 °C or trichloroacetic acid (TCA), and a third under nondenaturing conditions and washing the cells in PBS.

Their data suggest that either TCA or EtOH sample collection protocols introduced lower collection bias than the PBS protocol. It was also suggested that similar studies be carried out to determine what effects sample preparation has on other post translation modifications such as acetylation or ubiquitination.

Literature Cited

  1. Thingholm T.E. et al, (2009) Analytical strategies for phosphoproteomics. Proteomics 9,1451–68
  2. Kanshin, E. et al. (2015)  Sample Collection Method Bias Effects in Quantitative Phosphoproteomics. J  Proteome Res. 14, 2998-04.

Improved Characterization and Quantification of Complex Cell Surface N-Glycans

MSextractcroppedN-Glycosylation is a common protein post-translational modification occurring on asparagine residues of the consensus sequence asparagine-X-serine/threonine, where X may be any amino acid except proline. Protein N-glycosylation takes place in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) as well as in the Golgi apparatus.

Approximately half of all proteins typically expressed in a cell undergo this modification, which entails the covalent addition of sugar moieties to specific amino acids. There are many potential functions of glycosylation. For instance, physical properties include: folding, trafficking, packing, stabilization and protease protection. N-glycans present at the cell surface are directly involved in cell−cell or cell−protein interactions that trigger various biological responses.

The standard method used to profile the N-glycosylation pattern of cells is glycoprotein isolation followed by denaturation and/or tryptic digestion of the glycoproteins and an enzymatic release of the N-glycans using PNGase F followed by analysis mass spec. This method has been reported to yield high levels of high-mannose N-glycans that stem from both membrane proteins as well as proteins from the ER.(1,2)

For those researchers interested in characterizing only cell surface glycans (i.e.,  complex N-glycans)  a recent reference has developed a model system using HEK-292 cells that demonstrates a reproducible, sensitive, and fast method to profile surface N-glycosylation from living cells (3). The method involves standard centrifugation followed by enzymatic release of cell surface N-glycans. When compared to the standard methods the detection and quantification of complex-type N-glycans by increased their relative amount from 14 to 85%.

  1. North, S. J. et al. (2012) Glycomic analysis of human mast cells, eosinophils and basophils. Glycobiology. 2012, 22, 12–22.
  2. Reinke, S. O. et al. (2011) Analysis of cell surface N-glycosylation of the human embryonic
    kidney 293T cell line.
    J. Carbohydr. Chem.  30, 218–232.
  3. Hamouda, H. et al. (2014) Rapid Analysis of Cell Surface N‑Glycosylation from Living Cells Using Mass Spectrometry. J of Proteome Res. 13, 6144–51.