Metabolic Reprogramming by Hexosamine Biosynthetic and Golgi N-Glycan Branching Pathways

Sci Rep. 2016 Mar 14:6:23043. doi: 10.1038/srep23043.


De novo uridine-diphosphate-N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) biosynthesis requires glucose, glutamine, acetyl-CoA and uridine, however GlcNAc salvaged from glycoconjugate turnover and dietary sources also makes a significant contribution to the intracellular pool. Herein we ask whether dietary GlcNAc regulates nutrient transport and intermediate metabolism in C57BL/6 mice by increasing UDP-GlcNAc and in turn Golgi N-glycan branching. GlcNAc added to the drinking water showed a dose-dependent increase in growth of young mice, while in mature adult mice fat and body-weight increased without affecting calorie-intake, activity, energy expenditure, or the microbiome. Oral GlcNAc increased hepatic UDP-GlcNAc and N-glycan branching on hepatic glycoproteins. Glucose homeostasis, hepatic glycogen, lipid metabolism and response to fasting were altered with GlcNAc treatment. In cultured cells GlcNAc enhanced uptake of glucose, glutamine and fatty-acids, and enhanced lipid synthesis, while inhibition of Golgi N-glycan branching blocked GlcNAc-dependent lipid accumulation. The N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase enzymes of the N-glycan branching pathway (Mgat1,2,4,5) display multistep ultrasensitivity to UDP-GlcNAc, as well as branching-dependent compensation. Indeed, oral GlcNAc rescued fat accumulation in lean Mgat5(-/-) mice and in cultured Mgat5(-/-) hepatocytes, consistent with N-glycan branching compensation. Our results suggest GlcNAc reprograms cellular metabolism by enhancing nutrient uptake and lipid storage through the UDP-GlcNAc supply to N-glycan branching pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Acetylglucosamine / administration & dosage
  • Acetylglucosamine / pharmacology*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Biosynthetic Pathways / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / genetics
  • Glucosamine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glucosamine / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Liver Glycogen / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases / genetics
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases / metabolism
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Liver Glycogen
  • Polysaccharides
  • UDP-glucosamine
  • N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases
  • alpha-1,6-mannosylglycoprotein beta 1,6-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase
  • Glucose
  • Glucosamine
  • Acetylglucosamine