Altered O-glycosylation and sulfation of airway mucins associated with cystic fibrosis

Glycobiology. 2005 Aug;15(8):747-75. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwi061. Epub 2005 Apr 15.


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most lethal genetic disorder in Caucasians and is characterized by the production of excessive amounts of viscous mucus secretions in the airways of patients, leading to airway obstruction, chronic bacterial infections, and respiratory failure. Previous studies indicate that CF-derived airway mucins are glycosylated and sulfated differently compared with mucins from nondiseased (ND) individuals. To address unresolved questions about mucin glycosylation and sulfation, we examined O-glycan structures in mucins purified from mucus secretions of two CF donors versus two ND donors. All mucins contained galactose (Gal), N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc), fucose (Fuc), and sialic acid (Neu5Ac). However, CF mucins had higher sugar content and more O-glycans compared with ND mucins. Both ND and CF mucins contained GlcNAc-6-sulfate (GlcNAc-6-Sul), Gal-6-Sul, and Gal-3-Sul, but CF mucins had higher amounts of the 6-sulfated species. O-glycans were released from CF and ND mucins and derivatized with 2-aminobenzamide (2-AB), separated by ion exchange chromatography, and quantified by fluorescence. There was nearly a two-fold increase in sulfation and sialylation in CF compared with ND mucin. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) profiles of glycans showed differences between the two CF samples compared with the two ND samples. Glycan compositions were defined by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS). Unexpectedly, 260 compositional types of O-glycans were identified, and CF mucins contained a higher proportion of sialylated and sulfated O-glycans compared with ND mucins. These profound structural differences in mucin glycosylation in CF patients may contribute to inflammatory responses and increased pathogenesis by Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylgalactosamine / metabolism
  • Acetylglucosamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism*
  • Fucose / metabolism
  • Galactose / analogs & derivatives
  • Galactose / metabolism
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mucins / metabolism*
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / metabolism
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Fast Atom Bombardment
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Sulfates
  • Sulfuric Acid Esters / metabolism*


  • Mucins
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Sulfates
  • Sulfuric Acid Esters
  • sialooligosaccharides
  • N-acetylglucosamine-6-sulfate
  • 3-O-sulfogalactose
  • Fucose
  • galactose 6-sulfate
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid
  • Acetylgalactosamine
  • Acetylglucosamine
  • Galactose