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Glycobiology. 2002 Apr;12(4):43R-56R.

Protein glycosylation: nature, distribution, enzymatic formation, and disease implications of glycopeptide bonds.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, Harvard Medical School and the Joslin Diabetes Center, One Joslin Place, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Formation of the sugar-amino acid linkage is a crucial event in the biosynthesis of the carbohydrate units of glycoproteins. It sets into motion a complex series of posttranslational enzymatic steps that lead to the formation of a host of protein-bound oligosaccharides with diverse biological functions. These reactions occur throughout the entire phylogenetic spectrum, ranging from archaea and eubacteria to eukaryotes. It is the aim of this review to describe the glycopeptide linkages that have been found to date and specify their presence on well-characterized glycoproteins. A survey is also made of the enzymes involved in the formation of the various glycopeptide bonds as well as the site of their intracellular action and their affinity for particular peptide domains is evaluated. This examination indicates that 13 different monosaccharides and 8 amino acids are involved in glycoprotein linkages leading to a total of at least 41 bonds, if the anomeric configurations, the phosphoglycosyl linkages, as well as the GPI (glycophosphatidylinositol) phosphoethanolamine bridge are also considered. These bonds represent the products of N- and O-glycosylation, C-mannosylation, phosphoglycation, and glypiation. Currently at least 16 enzymes involved in their formation have been identified and in many cases cloned. Their intracellular site of action varies and includes the endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, cytosol, and nucleus. With the exception of the Asn-linked carbohydrate and the GPI anchor, which are transferred to the polypeptide en bloc, the sugar-amino acid linkages are formed by the enzymatic transfer of an activated monosaccharide directly to the protein. This review also deals briefly with glycosidases, which are involved in physiologically important cleavages of glycopeptide bonds in higher organisms, and with a number of human disease states in which defects in enzymatic transfer of saccharides to protein have been implicated.

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