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Glycobiology. 1991 Sep;1(4):337-46.

Structures and functional roles of the sugar chains of human erythropoietins.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.


Erythropoietin (EPO) is a haemopoietic hormone specific to cells of erythroid lineage. EPO has recently become available for the treatment of anaemia as the first human recombinant biomedicine produced in heterologous mammalian cells. Human EPO is characterized by its large carbohydrate chains, which occupy close to 40% of its total mass. These sugar moieties were thought to be important for the biological activity of EPO, but detailed studies were not performed until the structures were elucidated. The variety of roles for the sugar chains were then immediately found once the structures were known. EPO is an excellent model for investigating the roles of sugar chains on glycoproteins, since its gene and its multiple glycoforms are available, as well as sensitive bioassays for testing. In this review, we will first summarize the known sugar chain structures of EPO from different host cells, and then discuss the host-cell dependent and peptide structure-dependent glycosylation of glycoproteins. We will then address how one investigates the roles of sugar chains of glycoproteins, show several examples of such investigations, and discuss the functional roles of HuEPO's sugar chains in its biosynthesis and secretion, its in vitro and in vivo biological activities, and its half-life in blood circulation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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