Mapping sites of O-GlcNAc modification using affinity tags for serine and threonine post-translational modifications

Mol Cell Proteomics. 2002 Oct;1(10):791-804. doi: 10.1074/mcp.m200048-mcp200.


Identifying sites of post-translational modifications on proteins is a major challenge in proteomics. O-Linked beta-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is a dynamic nucleocytoplasmic modification more analogous to phosphorylation than to classical complex O-glycosylation. We describe a mass spectrometry-based method for the identification of sites modified by O-GlcNAc that relies on mild beta-elimination followed by Michael addition with dithiothreitol (BEMAD). Using synthetic peptides, we also show that biotin pentylamine can replace dithiothreitol as the nucleophile. The modified peptides can be efficiently enriched by affinity chromatography, and the sites can be mapped using tandem mass spectrometry. This same methodology can be applied to mapping sites of serine and threonine phosphorylation, and we provide a strategy that uses modification-specific antibodies and enzymes to discriminate between the two post-translational modifications. The BEMAD methodology was validated by mapping three previously identified O-GlcNAc sites, as well as three novel sites, on Synapsin I purified from rat brain. BEMAD was then used on a purified nuclear pore complex preparation to map novel sites of O-GlcNAc modification on the Lamin B receptor and the nucleoporin Nup155. This method is amenable for performing quantitative mass spectrometry and can also be adapted to quantify cysteine residues. In addition, our studies emphasize the importance of distinguishing between O-phosphate versus O-GlcNAc when mapping sites of serine and threonine post-translational modification using beta-elimination/Michael addition methods.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / chemistry*
  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism
  • Affinity Labels / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Affinity
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins / chemistry
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins / metabolism
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Serine / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Synapsins / isolation & purification
  • Synapsins / metabolism
  • Threonine / metabolism*


  • Affinity Labels
  • Nuclear Pore Complex Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Synapsins
  • lamin B receptor
  • Threonine
  • Serine
  • Acetylglucosamine