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Mol Cell Proteomics. 2013 May;12(5):1239-49. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M112.024554. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

Identification of potential glycan cancer markers with sialic acid attached to sialic acid and up-regulated fucosylated galactose structures in epidermal growth factor receptor secreted from A431 cell line.

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Barnett Institute, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts 01225, USA.


We have used powerful HPLC-mass spectrometric approaches to characterize the secreted form of epidermal growth factor receptor (sEGFR). We demonstrated that the amino acid sequence lacked the cytoplasmic domain and was consistent with the primary sequence reported for EGFR purified from a human plasma pool. One of the sEGFR forms, attributed to the alternative RNA splicing, was also confirmed by transcriptional analysis (RNA sequencing). Two unusual types of glycan structures were observed in sEGFR as compared with membrane-bound EGFR from the A431 cell line. The unusual glycan structures were di-sialylated glycans (sialic acid attached to sialic acid) at Asn-151 and N-acetylhexosamine attached to a branched fucosylated galactose with N-acetylglucosamine moieties (HexNAc-(Fuc)Gal-GlcNAc) at Asn-420. These unusual glycans at specific sites were either present at a much lower level or were not observable in membrane-bound EGFR present in the A431 cell lysate. The observation of these di-sialylated glycan structures was consistent with the observed expression of the corresponding α-N-acetylneuraminide α-2,8-sialyltransferase 2 (ST8SiA2) and α-N-acetylneuraminide α-2,8-sialyltransferase 4 (ST8SiA4), by quantitative real time RT-PCR. The connectivity present at the branched fucosylated galactose was also confirmed by methylation of the glycans followed by analysis with sequential fragmentation in mass spectrometry. We hypothesize that the presence of such glycan structures could promote secretion via anionic or steric repulsion mechanisms and thus facilitate the observation of these glycan forms in the secreted fractions. We plan to use this model system to facilitate the search for novel glycan structures present at specific sites in sEGFR as well as other secreted oncoproteins such as Erbb2 as markers of disease progression in blood samples from cancer patients.

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