Context-dependent effects of asparagine glycosylation on pin WW folding kinetics and thermodynamics

Joshua L. Price, Dalit Shental-Bechor, Apratim Dhar, Maurice J. Turner, Evan T. Powers, Martin Gruebele, Yaakov Levy, Jeffery W. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Asparagine glycosylation is one of the most common and important post-translational modifications of proteins in eukaryotic cells. N-Glycosylation occurs when a triantennary glycan precursor is transferred en bloc to a nascent polypeptide (harboring the N-X-T/S sequon) as the peptide is cotranslationally translocated into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In addition to facilitating binding interactions with components of the ER proteostasis network, N-glycans can also have intrinsic effects on protein folding by directly altering the folding energy landscape. Previous work from our laboratories (Hanson et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2009, 109, 3131-3136; Shental-Bechor, D.; Levy, Y. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2008, 105, 8256-8261) suggested that the three sugar residues closest to the protein are sufficient for accelerating protein folding and stabilizing the resulting structure in vitro; even a monosaccharide can have a dramatic effect. The highly conserved nature of these three proximal sugars in N-glycans led us to speculate that introducing an N-glycosylation site into a protein that is not normally glycosylated would stabilize the protein and increase its folding rate in a manner that does not depend on the presence of specific stabilizing protein-saccharide interactions. Here, we test this hypothesis experimentally and computationally by incorporating an N-linked GlcNAc residue at various positions within the Pin WW domain, a small β-sheet-rich protein. The results show that an increased folding rate and enhanced thermodynamic stability are not general, context-independent consequences of N-glycosylation. Comparison between computational predictions and experimental observations suggests that generic glycan-based excluded volume effects are responsible for the destabilizing effect of glycosylation at highly structured positions. However, this reasoning does not adequately explain the observed destabilizing effect of glycosylation within flexible loops. Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that specific, evolved protein-glycan contacts must also play an important role in mediating the beneficial energetic effects on protein folding that glycosylation can confer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15359-15367
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number43
StatePublished - Nov 3 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Context-dependent effects of asparagine glycosylation on pin WW folding kinetics and thermodynamics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this