N-glycan patterns of human transferrin produced in Trichoplusia ni insect cells: effects of mammalian galactosyltransferase

Glycobiology. 2000 Aug;10(8):837-47. doi: 10.1093/glycob/10.8.837.


The N-glycans of human serum transferrin produced in Trichopulsia ni cells were analyzed to examine N-linked oligosaccharide processing in insect cells. Metabolic radiolabeling of the intra- and extracellular protein fractions revealed the presence of multiple transferrin glycoforms with molecular weights lower than that observed for native human transferrin. Consequently, the N-glycan structures of transferrin in the culture medium were determined using three-dimensional high performance liquid chromatography. The attached oligosaccharides included high mannose, paucimannosidic, and hybrid structures with over 50% of these structures containing one fucose, alpha(1,6)-, or two fucoses, alpha(1,6)- and alpha(1,3)-, linked to the Asn-linked N-acetylglucosamine. Neither sialic acid nor galactose was detected on any of the N-glycans. However, when transferrin was coexpressed with beta(1,4)-galactosyltransferase three additional galactose-containing hybrid oligosaccharides were obtained. The galactose attachments were exclusive to the alpha(1, 3)-mannose branch and the structures varied by the presence of zero, one, or two attached fucose residues. Furthermore, the presence of the galactosyltransferase appeared to reduce the number of paucimannosidic structures, which suggests that galactose attachment inhibits the ability of hexosaminidase activity to remove the terminal N-acetylglucosamine. The ability to promote galactosylation and reduce paucimannosidic N-glycans suggests that the oligosaccharide processing pathway in insect cells may be manipulated to mimic more closely that of mammalian cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • DNA Primers
  • Galactosyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Moths / cytology*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Transferrin / chemistry
  • Transferrin / genetics
  • Transferrin / metabolism*
  • Tunicamycin / pharmacology


  • DNA Primers
  • Polysaccharides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Transferrin
  • Tunicamycin
  • Galactosyltransferases