N-glycosylation - the sequential addition of complex sugars to adhesion proteins, neurotransmitter receptors, ion channels and secreted trophic factors as they progress through the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi apparatus - is one of the most frequent protein modifications. In mammals, most organ-specific N-glycosylation events occur in the brain. Yet, little is known about the nature, function and regulation of N-glycosylation in neurons. Using imaging, quantitative immunoblotting and mass spectrometry, we show that hundreds of neuronal surface membrane proteins are core-glycosylated, resulting in the neuronal membrane displaying surprisingly high levels of glycosylation profiles that are classically associated with immature intracellular proteins. We report that while N-glycosylation is generally required for dendritic development and glutamate receptor surface expression, core-glycosylated proteins are sufficient to sustain these processes, and are thus functional. This atypical glycosylation of surface neuronal proteins can be attributed to a bypass or a hypo-function of the Golgi apparatus. Core-glycosylation is regulated by synaptic activity, modulates synaptic signaling and accelerates the turnover of GluA2-containing glutamate receptors, revealing a novel mechanism that controls the composition and sensing properties of the neuronal membrane.
Keywords: cell biology; glycosylation; golgi-bypass; neuronal membrane proteins; neuroscience; rat.