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Biochem J. 1994 Aug 15;302 ( Pt 1):253-60.

Asparagine-linked oligosaccharides are localized to single extracytosolic segments in multi-span membrane glycoproteins.

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Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


A comprehensive survey of mammalian multi-span (polytopic) membrane proteins showed that asparagine(N)-linked oligosaccharides are localized to single extracytosolic segments. In most membrane proteins this is because potential consensus sites for N-glycosylation (Asn-Xaa-Ser/Thr, X not equal to Pro) are not found in multiple extracytosolic segments. In functional proteins where consensus N-glycosylation sites are contained within more than one extracytosolic segment, only the first segment contains N-linked carbohydrate. An exception is the alpha-subunit of the Na+ channel, which consists of a duplicated structure containing two glycosylated segments. The average size of established N-glycosylated loops connecting two transmembrane segments is 62 residues, with the smallest glycosylated loop being 33 residues in size. N-glycosylated sites are more highly conserved than non-glycosylated (primarily cytosolic) sites and are more common toward the N-terminus of the membrane domain of multi-span membrane proteins. The optimal conditions for glycosylation of consensus sites within an extracytosolic domain of a multi-span membrane protein are (i) the acceptor site is well-spaced (greater than 10 residues) from the transmembrane domain, (ii) the loop is greater than 30 residues in size and (iii) the segment is the first in the protein to contain a suitable extracytosolic consensus site. The localization of N-linked oligosaccharide chains to a single protein segment suggests either glycosylation of multiple loops may compromise protein folding or function, or only a single polypeptide domain can be optimally glycosylated during biosynthesis in vivo.

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