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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Sep 17;93(19):10111-6.

Alpha-lactalbumin affects the acceptor specificity of Lymnaea stagnalis albumen gland UDP-GalNAc:GlcNAc beta-R beta 1-->4-N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase: synthesis of GalNAc beta 1-->4Glc.

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Department of Medical Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The N,N'-diacetyllactosediamine (lacdiNAc) pathway of complex-type oligosaccharide synthesis is controlled by a UDP-GalNAc:GlcNAc beta-R beta 1-->4-N-acetylgalac-tesaminyltransferase (beta 4-GalNAcT) that acts analogously to the common UDP-Gal:GlcNAc beta-R beta 1-->4-galactosyltransferase (beta 4-GalT). LacdiNAc-based chains particularly occur in invertebrates and cognate beta 4-GalNAcTs have been identified in the snail Lymnaea stagnalis, in two schistosomal species, and in several lepldopteran insect cell lines. Because of the similarity in reactions catalyzed by both enzymes, we investigated whether L. stagnalis albumen gland beta 4-GalNAcT would share with mammalian beta 4-GalT the property of interacting with alpha-lactalbumin (alpha-LA), a protein that only occurs in the lactating mammary gland, to form a complex in which the specificity of the enzyme is changed. It was found that, under conditions where beta 4-GalT forms the lactose synthase complex with alpha-LA, the snail beta 4-GalNAcT was induced by this protein to act on Glc with a > 100-fold increased efficiency, resulting in the formation of the lactose analog GalNAc beta 1-->4Glc. This forms the second example of a glycosyltransferase, the specificity of which can be altered by a modifier protein. So far, however, no protein fraction could be isolated from L. stagnalis that could likewise interact with the beta 4-GalNAcT. Neither had lysozyme c, a protein that is homologous to alpha-LA, an effect on the specificity of the enzyme. These results raise the question of how the capability to interact with alpha-LA has been conserved in the snail enzyme during evolution without any apparent selective pressure. They also suggest that snail beta 4-GalNAcT and mammalian beta 4-GalT show similarity at a molecular level and allows the identification of the beta 4-GalNAcT as a candidate member of the beta 4-GalT family.

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