The New Chemical Reporter 6-Alkynyl-6-deoxy-GlcNAc Reveals O-GlcNAc Modification of the Apoptotic Caspases That Can Block the Cleavage/Activation of Caspase-8

J Am Chem Soc. 2017 Jun 14;139(23):7872-7885. doi: 10.1021/jacs.7b02213. Epub 2017 May 31.


O-GlcNAc modification (O-GlcNAcylation) is required for survival in mammalian cells. Genetic and biochemical experiments have found that increased modification inhibits apoptosis in tissues and cell culture and that lowering O-GlcNAcylation induces cell death. However, the molecular mechanisms by which O-GlcNAcylation might inhibit apoptosis are still being elucidated. Here, we first synthesize a new metabolic chemical reporter, 6-Alkynyl-6-deoxy-GlcNAc (6AlkGlcNAc), for the identification of O-GlcNAc-modified proteins. Subsequent characterization of 6AlkGlcNAc shows that this probe is selectively incorporated into O-GlcNAcylated proteins over cell-surface glycoproteins. Using this probe, we discover that the apoptotic caspases are O-GlcNAcylated, which we confirmed using other techniques, raising the possibility that the modification affects their biochemistry. We then demonstrate that changes in the global levels of O-GlcNAcylation result in a converse change in the kinetics of caspase-8 activation during apoptosis. Finally, we show that caspase-8 is modified at residues that can block its cleavage/activation. Our results provide the first evidence that the caspases may be directly affected by O-GlcNAcylation as a potential antiapoptotic mechanism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylglucosamine / chemistry
  • Acetylglucosamine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspases / chemistry
  • Caspases / metabolism*
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • Mice
  • NIH 3T3 Cells


  • Caspases
  • Acetylglucosamine