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Methods Enzymol. 2006;417:359-89.

N-glycans are involved in the response of Caenorhabditis elegans to bacterial pathogens.

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  • 1Program in Structural Biology and Biochemistry, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Caenorhabditis elegans is becoming a popular tool for the study of glycan function particularly as it applies to development. More than 150 C. elegans genes have been identified as homologs of vertebrate genes involved in glycan metabolism. However, only a relatively small number of these genes have been expressed and studied in any detail. Oligomannose N-glycans (Man5-9GlcNAc2Asn), major components of the N-glycans of all eukaryotes including C. elegans, are essential, at least in part, for eukaryote survival, because they play an important role in protein quality control. In addition, vertebrates make hybrid (GlcNAcMan3-5GlcNAc2Asn) and complex (XGlcNAc2-6Man3GlcNAc2Asn) but little or no paucimannose (Man3-4GlcNAc2Asn)N-glycans, whereas plants, insects, and C. elegans make paucimannose but little or no hybrid nor complex N-glycans. UDP-GlcNAc:alpha3-D-mannoside beta1,2-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase I (encoded by the gene Mgat1) controls the synthesis of hybrid, complex, and paucimannose N-glycans in all eukaryotes. C. elegans has three genes encoding beta1,2-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase I (gly-12, gly-13, gly-14). To determine the functional requirement for this enzyme in worms, we generated seven worm strains with mutations in these three genes (gly-12, dpy-6 gly-13, gly-14, gly-12 gly-13, gly-14;gly-12, gly-14;dpy-6 gly-13 and gly-14;gly-12 gly-13). Whereas mice and Drosophila melanogaster with null mutations in Mgat1 suffer severe developmental abnormalities, all seven C. elegans strains with null mutations in the genes encoding beta1,2-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase I develop normally and seem to have a wild-type phenotype. We now present evidence that beta1,2-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase I-dependent N-glycans (consisting mainly of paucimannose N-glycans) play a role in the interaction of C. elegans with pathogenic bacteria, suggesting that these N-glycans are components of the worm's innate immune system.

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