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, 33 (3), 151-208

Concepts and Principles of O-linked Glycosylation


Concepts and Principles of O-linked Glycosylation

P Van den Steen et al. Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol.


The biosynthesis, structures, and functions of O-glycosylation, as a complex posttranslational event, is reviewed and compared for the various types of O-glycans. Mucin-type O-glycosylation is initiated by tissue-specific addition of a GalNAc-residue to a serine or a threonine of the fully folded protein. This event is dependent on the primary, secondary, and tertiary structure of the glycoprotein. Further elongation and termination by specific transferases is highly regulated. We also describe some of the physical and biological properties that O-glycosylation confers on the protein to which the sugars are attached. These include providing the basis for rigid conformations and for protein stability. Clustering of O-glycans in Ser/Thr(/Pro)-rich domains allows glycan determinants such as sialyl Lewis X to be presented as multivalent ligands, essential for functional recognition. An additional level of regulation, imposed by exon shuffling and alternative splicing of mRNA, results in the expression of proteins that differ only by the presence or absence of Ser/Thr(/Pro)-rich domains. These domains may serve as protease-resistant spacers in cell surface glycoproteins. Further biological roles for O-glycosylation discussed include the role of isolated mucin-type O-glycans in recognition events (e.g., during fertilization and in the immune response) and in the modulation of the activity of enzymes and signaling molecules. In some cases, the O-linked oligosaccharides are necessary for glycoprotein expression and processing. In contrast to the more common mucin-type O-glycosylation, some specific types of O-glycosylation, such as the O-linked attachment of fucose and glucose, are sequon dependent. The reversible attachment of O-linked GlcNAc to cytoplasmic and nuclear proteins is thought to play a regulatory role in protein function. The recent development of novel technologies for glycan analysis promises to yield new insights in the factors that determine site occupancy, structure-function relationship, and the contribution of O-linked sugars to physiological and pathological processes. These include diseases where one or more of the O-glycan processing enzymes are aberrantly regulated or deficient, such as HEMPAS and cancer.

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