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Nature. 2020 Mar;579(7799):443-447. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2044-z. Epub 2020 Feb 26.

Structure and mechanism of the ER-based glucosyltransferase ALG6.

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Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.


In eukaryotic protein N-glycosylation, a series of glycosyltransferases catalyse the biosynthesis of a dolichylpyrophosphate-linked oligosaccharide before its transfer onto acceptor proteins1. The final seven steps occur in the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and require dolichylphosphate-activated mannose and glucose as donor substrates2. The responsible enzymes-ALG3, ALG9, ALG12, ALG6, ALG8 and ALG10-are glycosyltransferases of the C-superfamily (GT-Cs), which are loosely defined as containing membrane-spanning helices and processing an isoprenoid-linked carbohydrate donor substrate3,4. Here we present the cryo-electron microscopy structure of yeast ALG6 at 3.0 Å resolution, which reveals a previously undescribed transmembrane protein fold. Comparison with reported GT-C structures suggests that GT-C enzymes contain a modular architecture with a conserved module and a variable module, each with distinct functional roles. We used synthetic analogues of dolichylphosphate-linked and dolichylpyrophosphate-linked sugars and enzymatic glycan extension to generate donor and acceptor substrates using purified enzymes of the ALG pathway to recapitulate the activity of ALG6 in vitro. A second cryo-electron microscopy structure of ALG6 bound to an analogue of dolichylphosphate-glucose at 3.9 Å resolution revealed the active site of the enzyme. Functional analysis of ALG6 variants identified a catalytic aspartate residue that probably acts as a general base. This residue is conserved in the GT-C superfamily. Our results define the architecture of ER-luminal GT-C enzymes and provide a structural basis for understanding their catalytic mechanisms.


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