N- and O-Glycosylation of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein

Anal Chem. 2021 Feb 2;93(4):2003-2009. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.0c03173. Epub 2021 Jan 6.


Covid-19 pandemic outbreak is the reason of the current world health crisis. The development of effective antiviral compounds and vaccines requires detailed descriptive studies of SARS-CoV-2 proteins. The SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein mediates virion binding to the human cells through its interaction with the ACE2 cell surface receptor and is one of the prime immunization targets. A functional virion is composed of three S1 and three S2 subunits created by furin cleavage of the spike protein at R682, a polybasic cleavage site that differs from the SARS-CoV spike protein of 2002. By analysis of the protein produced in HEK293 cells, we observe that the spike is O-glycosylated on a threonine (T678) near the furin cleavage site occupied by core-1 and core-2 structures. In addition, we have identified eight additional O-glycopeptides on the spike glycoprotein and confirmed that the spike protein is heavily N-glycosylated. Our recently developed liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry methodology allowed us to identify LacdiNAc structural motifs on all occupied N-glycopeptides and polyLacNAc structures on six glycopeptides of the spike protein. In conclusion, our study substantially expands the current knowledge of the spike protein's glycosylation and enables the investigation of the influence of O-glycosylation on its proteolytic activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Glycosylation
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • SARS-CoV-2 / metabolism*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / chemistry
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / metabolism*


  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2