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Biochemistry. 1996 Jun 11;35(23):7299-307.

Influence of the carbohydrate moiety on the stability of glycoproteins.

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Department of Biochemical Sciences, A. Rossi Fanelli, University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy.


To study the role of oligosaccharides on the properties of glycoproteins, five glycoproteins (yeast external invertase, bovine serum fetuin, glucoamylase from Aspergillus niger, and chicken egg white ovotransferrin and avidin) of previously established glycan patterns were purified to homogeneity and deglycosylated with endo- and exo-glycosidases in native conditions. Thermal stability and conformational changes were measured by high-resolution differential scanning microcalorimetry and circular dicroism spectroscopy before and after they were deglycosylated. It was found that deglycosylation decreases protein thermal stability, as judged by the decrease in denaturation temperature and denaturation enthalpy, while it does not affect substantially the conformation as indicated by the CD spectra in the far UV range. The destabilization effect of deglycosylation seems to depend on the carbohydrate content, i.e., the maximum effect was observed for the most heavily glycosylated protein, irrespective of the types (N-linked or O-linked) or patterns (mono- or multi-branched) of the covalently attached carbohydrate chains. In addition, studies of the reversibility to heat denaturation revealed that deglycosylated proteins have a poorer thermal reversibility in calorimetric scans than their native counterparts and tend to aggregate during thermal inactivation at acidic pH. These results suggest that carbohydrate moieties, in addition to the apparent stabilizing effect, may prevent the unfolded or partially folded protein molecules from aggregation. Our results support the hypothesis that the general function of protein glycosylation is to aid in folding of the nascent polypeptide chain and in stabilization of the conformation of the mature glycoprotein.

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