A quantitative, high-throughput method identifies protein-glycan interactions via mass spectrometry

Commun Biol. 2019 Jul 22;2:268. doi: 10.1038/s42003-019-0507-2. eCollection 2019.


Glycan binding by glycan-binding proteins and processing by carbohydrate-active enzymes is implicated in physiological and pathophysiological processes. Comprehensive mapping of glycan interactions is essential to understanding of glycan-mediated biology and can guide the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics. Here, we introduce the competitive universal proxy receptor assay (CUPRA), which combines electrospray ionization mass spectrometry, competitive binding and heterobifunctional glycan-based ligands to give a quantitative high-throughput method for screening glycan libraries against glycan-binding and glycan-processing proteins. Application of the assay to human (siglec-2), plant (Sambucus nigra and Maackia amurensis lectins) and bacterial (cholera toxin, and family 51 carbohydrate binding module) proteins allowed for the identification of ligands with affinities (Kd) ≤ 1 mM. The assay is unprecedentedly versatile and can be applied to natural libraries and, when implemented in a time-resolved manner, provides a quantitative measure of the activities and substrate specificity of carbohydrate-active enzymes.

Keywords: High-throughput screening; Mass spectrometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Ligands
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Ligands
  • Polysaccharides
  • Proteins