Site-specific O-glycosylation of N-terminal serine residues by polypeptide GalNAc-transferase 2 modulates human δ-opioid receptor turnover at the plasma membrane

Cell Signal. 2018 Jan:42:184-193. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2017.10.016. Epub 2017 Oct 31.


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are an important protein family of signalling receptors that govern a wide variety of physiological functions. The capacity to transmit extracellular signals and the extent of cellular response are largely determined by the amount of functional receptors at the cell surface that is subject to complex and fine-tuned regulation. Here, we demonstrate that the cell surface expression level of an inhibitory GPCR, the human δ-opioid receptor (hδOR) involved in pain and mood regulation, is modulated by site-specific N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) -type O-glycosylation. Importantly, we identified one out of the 20 polypeptide GalNAc-transferase isoforms, GalNAc-T2, as the specific regulator of O-glycosylation of Ser6, Ser25 and Ser29 in the N-terminal ectodomain of the receptor. This was demonstrated by in vitro glycosylation assays using peptides corresponding to the hδOR N-terminus, Vicia villosa lectin affinity purification of receptors expressed in HEK293 SimpleCells capable of synthesizing only truncated O-glycans, GalNAc-T edited cell line model systems, and site-directed mutagenesis of the putative O-glycosylation sites. Interestingly, a single-nucleotide polymorphism, at residue 27 (F27C), was found to alter O-glycosylation of the receptor in efficiency as well as in glycosite usage. Furthermore, flow cytometry and cell surface biotinylation assays using O-glycan deficient CHO-ldlD cells revealed that the absence of O-glycans results in decreased receptor levels at the plasma membrane due to enhanced turnover. In addition, mutation of the identified O-glycosylation sites led to a decrease in the number of ligand-binding competent receptors and impaired agonist-mediated inhibition of cyclic AMP accumulation in HEK293 cells. Thus, site-specific O-glycosylation by a selected GalNAc-T isoform can increase the stability of a GPCR, in a process that modulates the constitutive turnover and steady-state levels of functional receptors at the cell surface.

Keywords: G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR); GalNAc transferase; Glycoprotein; Opioid receptor; Post-translational modification; Protein stability.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylgalactosamine / chemistry
  • Acetylgalactosamine / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Chromatography, Affinity / methods
  • Cricetulus
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Glycosylation
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases / genetics
  • N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Plant Lectins / chemistry
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Protein Stability
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / genetics
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / chemistry*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Serine / metabolism*


  • Peptides
  • Plant Lectins
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Vicia lectins
  • Serine
  • Cyclic AMP
  • N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases
  • Acetylgalactosamine