Post-translational modifications (PTMs) on proteins often function to regulate signaling cascades, with the activation of T cells during an adaptive immune response being a classic example. Mounting evidence indicates that the modification of proteins by O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc), the only mammalian glycan found on nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins, helps regulate T cell activation. Yet, a mechanistic understanding of how O-GlcNAc functions in T cell activation remains elusive, partly because of the difficulties in mapping and quantifying O-GlcNAc sites. Thus, to advance insight into the role of O-GlcNAc in T cell activation, we performed glycosite mapping studies via direct glycopeptide measurement on resting and activated primary human T cells with a technique termed Isotope Targeted Glycoproteomics. This approach led to the identification of 2219 intact O-linked glycopeptides across 1045 glycoproteins. A significant proportion (>45%) of the identified O-GlcNAc sites lie near or coincide with a known phosphorylation site, supporting the potential for PTM crosstalk. Consistent with other studies, we find that O-GlcNAc sites in T cells lack a strict consensus sequence. To validate our results, we employed gel shift assays based on conjugating mass tags to O-GlcNAc groups. Notably, we observed that the transcription factors c-JUN and JUNB show higher levels of O-GlcNAc glycosylation and higher levels of expression in activated T cells. Overall, our findings provide a quantitative characterization of O-GlcNAc glycoproteins and their corresponding modification sites in primary human T cells, which will facilitate mechanistic studies into the function of O-GlcNAc in T cell activation.
© 2018 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.