Site-specific N-glycan characterization of human complement factor H

Glycobiology. 2007 Sep;17(9):932-44. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwm060. Epub 2007 Jun 25.


Human complement factor H (CFH) is a plasma glycoprotein involved in the regulation of the alternative pathway of the complement system. A deficiency in CFH is a cause of severe pathologies like atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome (aHUS). CFH is a 155-kDa glycoprotein containing nine potential N-glycosylation sites. In the current study, we present a quantitative glycosylation analysis of CFH using capillary electrophoresis and a complete site-specific N-glycan characterization using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) and liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESIMS/MS). A 17.9-kDa mass decrease, observed after glycosidase treatment, indicated that N-glycosylation is the major post-translational modification of CFH. This mass difference is consistent with CFH glycosylation by diantennary disialylated glycans of 2204 Da on eight sites. CFH was not sensitive to endoglycosidase H (Endo H) deglycosylation, indicating the absence of hybrid and oligomannose structures. Quantitative analysis showed that CFH is mainly glycosylated by complex, diantennary disialylated, non-fucosylated glycans. Disialylated fucosylated and monosialylated non-fucosylated oligosaccharides were also identified. MS analysis allowed complete characterization of the protein backbone, verification of the glycosylation sites and site-specific N-glycan identification. The absence of glycosylation at Asn199 of the NGSP sequence of CFH is shown. Asn511, Asn700, Asn784, Asn804, Asn864, Asn893, Asn1011 and Asn1077 are glycosylated essentially by diantennary disialylated structures with a relative distribution varying between 45% for Asn804 and 75% for Asn864. Diantennary monosialylated glycans and triantennary trisialylated fucosylated and non-fucosylated structures have also been identified. Interestingly, the sialylation level along with the amount of triantennary structures decreases from the N- to the C-terminal side of the protein.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Complement Factor H / chemistry*
  • Electrophoresis, Capillary
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligosaccharides / chemistry
  • Peptide Mapping
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Time Factors


  • Oligosaccharides
  • Polysaccharides
  • Complement Factor H