Glycosylation is one of the most common post-translational modifications of proteins, as shown in Figure 1. N-linked glycosylation occurs when glycans are attached to asparagine residues on the core protein. O-linked glycosylation occurs when glycans are attached to serine or threonine residues. Both chemical and enzymatic methods exist for removing oligosaccharides from glycoproteins. However, chemical methods such as β-elimination with mild alkali or mild hydrazinolysis can be harsh and may result in incomplete sugar removal and degradation of the protein; whereas, enzymatic methods are much gentler and can provide complete sugar removal with no protein degradation.
PNGase F is the most effective enzymatic method for removing almost all N-linked oligosaccharides from glycoproteins. PNGase F digestion deaminates the aspargine residue to aspartic acid, and leaves the oligosaccharide intact, keeping it suitable for further analysis. Oligosaccharides containing a fucose α(1-3)-linked to the glycan core are, however, resistant to PNGase F which can occur on some plant and insect glycoproteins. Steric hindrance slows or inhibits the action of PNGase F on certain residues of glycoproteins; therefore denaturation of the glycoprotein by heating with SDS and DTT greatly increases the rate of deglycosylation. Other commonly used endoglycosidases such as Endoglycosidase H are not suitable for general deglycosylation of N-linked sugars because of their limited specificities and because they leave one N-acetylglucosamine residue attached to the asparagine.
To remove O-linked glycans, monosaccharides must be removed by a series of exoglycosidases until only the Galβ1-3GalNAc (core 1) and/or the GlcNAcβ1-3GalNAc (core 3) cores remain attached to the serine or threonine. The Enterococcus faecalis O-Glycosidase, also called O-Glycosidase, also called Endo-α-N-Acetylgalactosaminidase, can then remove these core structures with no modification of the serine or threonine residues. Any modification of the core structures, including sialyation, will block the action of the O-Glycosidase. Sialic acid residues are easily removed by a general α2-3,6,8 Neuraminidase. In addition, exoglycosidases such as β(1-4)Galactosidase and β-N-Acetylglucosaminidase can be included in deglycosylation reactions to remove other complex modifications often known to be present on the core structures. This combination of enzymes will not remove all O-linked oligosaccharides but should remove many common oligosaccharide structures.
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