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Annu Rev Biochem. 2004;73:1019-49.

Roles of N-linked glycans in the endoplasmic reticulum.

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Institute of Biochemistry1 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Zurich 8093, Switzerland.


From a process involved in cell wall synthesis in archaea and some bacteria, N-linked glycosylation has evolved into the most common covalent protein modification in eukaryotic cells. The sugars are added to nascent proteins as a core oligosaccharide unit, which is then extensively modified by removal and addition of sugar residues in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the Golgi complex. It has become evident that the modifications that take place in the ER reflect a spectrum of functions related to glycoprotein folding, quality control, sorting, degradation, and secretion. The glycans not only promote folding directly by stabilizing polypeptide structures but also indirectly by serving as recognition "tags" that allow glycoproteins to interact with a variety of lectins, glycosidases, and glycosyltranferases. Some of these (such as glucosidases I and II, calnexin, and calreticulin) have a central role in folding and retention, while others (such as alpha-mannosidases and EDEM) target unsalvageable glycoproteins for ER-associated degradation. Each residue in the core oligosaccharide and each step in the modification program have significance for the fate of newly synthesized glycoproteins.

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