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Glycobiology. 2017 Jan;27(2):188-198. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cww108. Epub 2016 Oct 26.

Circulating blood and platelets supply glycosyltransferases that enable extrinsic extracellular glycosylation.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA.
The Glycomics Center, Division of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA.
Division of Hematology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA


Glycosyltransferases, usually residing within the intracellular secretory apparatus, also circulate in the blood. Many of these blood-borne glycosyltransferases are associated with pathological states, including malignancies and inflammatory conditions. Despite the potential for dynamic modifications of glycans on distal cell surfaces and in the extracellular milieu, the glycan-modifying activities present in systemic circulation have not been systematically examined. Here, we describe an evaluation of blood-borne sialyl-, galactosyl- and fucosyltransferase activities that act upon the four common terminal glycan precursor motifs, GlcNAc monomer, Gal(β3)GlcNAc, Gal(β4)GlcNAc and Gal(β3)GalNAc, to produce more complex glycan structures. Data from radioisotope assays and detailed product analysis by sequential tandem mass spectrometry show that blood has the capacity to generate many of the well-recognized and important glycan motifs, including the Lewis, sialyl-Lewis, H- and Sialyl-T antigens. While many of these glycosyltransferases are freely circulating in the plasma, human and mouse platelets are important carriers for others, including ST3Gal-1 and β4GalT. Platelets compartmentalize glycosyltransferases and release them upon activation. Human platelets are also carriers for large amounts of ST6Gal-1 and the α3-sialyl to Gal(β4)GlcNAc sialyltransferases, both of which are conspicuously absent in mouse platelets. This study highlights the capability of circulatory glycosyltransferases, which are dynamically controlled by platelet activation, to remodel cell surface glycans and alter cell behavior.


extrinsic glycosylation; glycosyltransferases; platelets; serum

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