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Biochem J. 2004 Aug 15;382(Pt 1):67-74.

The Drosophila melanogaster homologue of the human histo-blood group Pk gene encodes a glycolipid-modifying alpha1,4-N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase.

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Chemický ústav, Slovenská akadémia vied, Dúbravská cesta 9, 845 38 Bratislava, Slovakia.


Insects express arthro-series glycosphingolipids, which contain an alpha1,4-linked GalNAc residue. To determine the genetic basis for this linkage, we cloned a cDNA (CG17223) from Drosophila melanogaster encoding a protein with homology to mammalian alpha1,4-glycosyltransferases and expressed it in the yeast Pichia pastoris. Culture supernatants from the transformed yeast were found to display a novel UDP-GalNAc:GalNAcbeta1,4GlcNAcbeta1-R alpha-N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase activity when using either a glycolipid, p-nitrophenylglycoside or an N-glycan carrying one or two terminal beta-N-acetylgalactosamine residues. NMR and MS in combination with glycosidase digestion and methylation analysis indicate that the cloned cDNA encodes an alpha1,4-N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase. We hypothesize that this enzyme and its orthologues in other insects are required for the biosynthesis of the N5a and subsequent members of the arthro-series of glycolipids as well as of N-glycan receptors for Bacillus thuringiensis crystal toxin Cry1Ac.

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