N-glycosylation patterns of plasma proteins and immunoglobulin G in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

J Transl Med. 2018 Nov 21;16(1):323. doi: 10.1186/s12967-018-1695-0.


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a complex condition, whose diagnosis requires spirometric assessment. However, considering its heterogeneity, subjects with similar spirometric parameters do not necessarily have the same functional status. To overcome this limitation novel biomarkers for COPD have been investigated. Therefore, we aimed to explore the potential value of N-glycans as COPD biomarkers and to examine the individual variation of plasma protein and immunoglobulin G (IgG) glycosylation profiles in subjects with COPD and healthy controls.

Methods: Both the total plasma protein and IgG N-glycome have been profiled in the total of 137 patients with COPD and 95 matching controls from Croatia. Replication cohort consisted of 61 subjects with COPD and 148 controls recruited at another Croatian medical centre.

Results: Plasma protein N-glycome in COPD subjects exhibited significant decrease in low branched and conversely, an increase in more complex glycan structures (tetragalactosylated, trisialylated, tetrasialylated and antennary fucosylated glycoforms). We also observed a significant decline in plasma monogalactosylated species, and the same change replicated in IgG glycome. N-glycans also showed value in distinguishing subjects in different COPD GOLD stages, where the relative abundance of more complex glycan structures increased as the disease progressed. Glycans also showed statistically significant associations with the frequency of exacerbations and demonstrated to be affected by smoking, which is the major risk factor for COPD development.

Conclusions: This study showed that complexity of glycans associates with COPD, mirroring also the disease severity. Moreover, changes in N-glycome associate with exacerbation frequency and are affected by smoking. In general, this study provided new insights into plasma protein and IgG N-glycome changes occurring in COPD and pointed out potential novel markers of the disease progression and severity.

Keywords: Biomarkers; COPD; Immunoglobulin G; N-glycosylation; Plasma glycoproteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / blood*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking


  • Blood Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Polysaccharides
  • glycosylated IgG