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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jan 4;283(1):17-28. Epub 2007 Nov 6.

Enzyme-dependent variations in the polysialylation of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) in vivo.

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  • 1Institute of Biochemistry, Medical Faculty, University of Giessen, Friedrichstrasse 24, Giessen D-35392, Germany.


Polysialic acid (polySia), an alpha2,8-linked polymer of N-acetylneuraminic acid, represents an essential regulator of neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) functions. Two polysialyltransferases, ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV, account for polySia synthesis, but their individual roles in vivo are still not fully understood. Previous in vitro studies defined differences between the two enzymes in their usage of the two NCAM N-glycosylation sites affected and suggested a synergistic effect. Using mutant mice, lacking either enzyme, we now assessed in vivo the contribution of ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV to polysialylation of NCAM. PolySia-NCAM was isolated from mouse brains and trypsinized, and polysialylated glycopeptides as well as glycans were analyzed in detail. Our results revealed an identical glycosylation and almost complete polysialylation of N-glycosylation sites 5 and 6 in polySia-NCAM irrespective of the enzyme present. The same sets of glycans were substituted by identical numbers of polySia chains in vivo, the length distribution of which, however, differed with the enzyme setting. Expression of ST8SiaIV alone led to higher amounts of short polySia chains and gradual decrease with length, whereas exclusive action of ST8SiaII evoked a slight reduction in long polySia chains only. These variations were most pronounced at N-glycosylation site 5, whereas the polysialylation pattern at N-glycosylation site 6 did not differ between NCAM from wild-type and ST8SiaII- or ST8SiaIV-deficient mice. Thus, our fine structure analyses suggest a comparable quality of polysialylation by ST8SiaII and ST8SiaIV and a distinct synergistic action of the two enzymes in the synthesis of long polySia chains at N-glycosylation site 5 in vivo.

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