Critical role of evolutionarily conserved glycosylation at Asn211 in the intracellular trafficking and activity of sialyltransferase ST3Gal-II

Biochem J. 2015 Jul 1;469(1):83-95. doi: 10.1042/BJ20150072. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


ST3Gal-II, a type II transmembrane protein, is the main mammalian sialyltransferase responsible for GD1a and GT1b ganglioside biosynthesis in brain. It contains two putative N-glycosylation sites (Asn(92) and Asn(211)). Whereas Asn(92) is only conserved in mammalian species, Asn(211) is highly conserved in mammals, birds and fish. The present study explores the occupancy and relevance for intracellular trafficking and enzyme activity of these potential N-glycosylations in human ST3Gal-II. We found that ST3Gal-II distributes along the Golgi complex, mainly in proximal compartments. By pharmacological, biochemical and site-directed mutagenesis, we observed that ST3Gal-II is mostly N-glycosylated at Asn(211) and that this co-translational modification is critical for its exit from the endoplasmic reticulum and proper Golgi localization. The individual N-glycosylation sites had different effects on ST3Gal-II enzymatic activity. Whereas the N-glycan at position Asn(211) seems to negatively influence the activity of the enzyme using both glycolipid and glycoprotein as acceptor substrates, the single N-glycan mutant at Asn(92) had only a moderate effect. Lastly, we demonstrated that the N-terminal ST3Gal-II domain containing the cytosolic, transmembrane and stem region (amino acids 1-51) is able to drive a protein reporter out of the endoplasmic reticulum and to retain it in the Golgi complex. This suggests that the C-terminal domain of ST3Gal-II depends on N-glycosylation to attain an optimum conformation for proper exit from the endoplasmic reticulum, but it does not represent an absolute requirement for Golgi complex retention of the enzyme.

Keywords: Golgi complex; N-glycan trimming; N-glycosylation; ST3Gal-II; ganglioside; glycolipid; sialyltransferase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asparagine / genetics
  • Asparagine / metabolism
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / enzymology*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Glycosylation
  • Golgi Apparatus / enzymology*
  • Golgi Apparatus / genetics
  • Humans
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Sialyltransferases / genetics
  • Sialyltransferases / metabolism*


  • Asparagine
  • Sialyltransferases
  • beta-galactoside alpha-2,3-sialyltransferase