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J Exp Bot. 2016 Mar;67(6):1769-81. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erv567. Epub 2016 Jan 8.

The Arabidopsis tonoplast is almost devoid of glycoproteins with complex N-glycans, unlike the rat lysosomal membrane.

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Istituto di Biologia e Biotecnologia Agraria, CNR, Milano, Italy
Parco Tecnologico Padano, Lodi, Italy.
Istituto di Biologia e Biotecnologia Agraria, CNR, Milano, Italy.
Institute of Plant Biology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


The distribution of the N-glycoproteome in integral membrane proteins of the vacuolar membrane (tonoplast) or the plasma membrane of Arabidopsis thaliana and, for further comparison, of the Rattus norvegicus lysosomal and plasma membranes, was analyzed. In silico analysis showed that potential N-glycosylation sites are much less frequent in tonoplast proteins. Biochemical analysis of Arabidopsis subcellular fractions with the lectin concanavalin A, which recognizes mainly unmodified N-glycans, or with antiserum against Golgi-modified N-glycans confirmed the in silico results and showed that, unlike the plant plasma membrane, the tonoplast is almost or totally devoid of N-glycoproteins with Golgi-modified glycans. Lysosomes share with vacuoles the hydrolytic functions and the position along the secretory pathway; however, our results indicate that their membranes had a divergent evolution. We propose that protection against the luminal hydrolases that are abundant in inner hydrolytic compartments, which seems to have been achieved in many lysosomal membrane proteins by extensive N-glycosylation of the luminal domains, has instead been obtained in the vast majority of tonoplast proteins by limiting the length of such domains.


Asparagine-linked oligosaccharides; cell evolution; glycoproteins; integral membrane proteins; lysosome; plant vacuole; tonoplast.

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