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Glycobiology. 1998 May;8(5):473-80.

Stable expression of mammalian beta 1,4-galactosyltransferase extends the N-glycosylation pathway in insect cells.

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  • 1Department of Entomology and Center for Advanced Invertebrate Molecular Sciences, Texas A&M University 77843, USA.


An established lepidopteran insect cell line (Sf9) was cotransfected with expression plasmids encoding neomycin phosphotransferase and bovine beta 1,4-galactosyltransferase. Neomycin-resistant transformants were selected, assayed for beta 1,4-galactosyltransferase activity, and the transformant with the highest level of enzymatic activity was characterized. Southern blots indicated that this transformed Sf9 cell derivative contained multiple copies of the galactosyltransferase-encoding expression plasmid integrated at a single site in its genome. One-step growth curves showed that these cells supported normal levels of baculovirus replication. Baculovirus infection of the transformed cells stimulated beta 1,4-galactosyltransferase activity almost 5-fold by 12 h postinfection. This was followed by a gradual decline in activity, but the infected cells still had about as much activity as uninfected controls as late as 48 h after infection and they were able to produce a beta 1,4-galactosylated virion glycoprotein during infection. Infection of the transformed cells with a conventional recombinant baculovirus expression vector encoding human tissue plasminogen activator also resulted in the production of a galactosylated end-product. These results demonstrate that stable transformation can be used to add a functional mammalian glycosyltransferase to lepidopteran insect cells and extend their N-glycosylation pathway. Furthermore, stably-transformed insect cells can be used as modified hosts for conventional baculovirus expression vectors to produce foreign glycoproteins with "mammalianized" glycans which more closely resemble those produced by higher eucaryotes.

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