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J Biol Chem. 2009 Jun 5;284(23):15505-16. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M809696200. Epub 2009 Mar 31.

Identification of sequences in the polysialyltransferases ST8Sia II and ST8Sia IV that are required for the protein-specific polysialylation of the neural cell adhesion molecule, NCAM.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois 60607, USA.


The polysialyltransferases ST8Sia II and ST8Sia IV polysialylate the glycans of a small subset of mammalian proteins. Their most abundant substrate is the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM). An acidic surface patch and a novel alpha-helix in the first fibronectin type III repeat of NCAM are required for the polysialylation of N-glycans on the adjacent immunoglobulin domain. Inspection of ST8Sia IV sequences revealed two conserved polybasic regions that might interact with the NCAM acidic patch or the growing polysialic acid chain. One is the previously identified polysialyltransferase domain (Nakata, D., Zhang, L., and Troy, F. A. (2006) Glycoconj. J. 23, 423-436). The second is a 35-amino acid polybasic region that contains seven basic residues and is equidistant from the large sialyl motif in both polysialyltransferases. We replaced these basic residues to evaluate their role in enzyme autopolysialylation and NCAM-specific polysialylation. We found that replacement of Arg(276)/Arg(277) or Arg(265) in the polysialyltransferase domain of ST8Sia IV decreased both NCAM polysialylation and autopolysialylation in parallel, suggesting that these residues are important for catalytic activity. In contrast, replacing Arg(82)/Arg(93) in ST8Sia IV with alanine substantially decreased NCAM-specific polysialylation while only partially impacting autopolysialylation, suggesting that these residues may be particularly important for NCAM polysialylation. Two conserved negatively charged residues, Glu(92) and Asp(94), surround Arg(93). Replacement of these residues with alanine largely inactivated ST8Sia IV, whereas reversing these residues enhanced enzyme autopolysialylation but significantly reduced NCAM polysialylation. In sum, we have identified selected amino acids in this conserved polysialyltransferase polybasic region that are critical for the protein-specific polysialylation of NCAM.

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