The N-acetyl-binding pocket of N-acetylglucosaminyltransferases also accommodates a sugar analog with a chemical handle at C2

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In recent years, sugars with a unique chemical handle have been used to detect and elucidate the function of glycoconjugates. Such chemical handles have generally been part of an N-acetyl moiety of a sugar. We have previously developed several applications using the single mutant Y289L-β1,4-galactosyltransferase I (Y289L-β4Gal-T1) and the wild-type polypeptide-α-GalNAc-T enzymes with UDP-C2-keto-Gal. Here, we describe for the first time that the GlcNAc-transferring enzymes—R228K-Y289L-β4Gal-T1 mutant enzyme, the wild-type human β1,3-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase-2 and human Maniac Fringe—can also transfer the GlcNAc analog C2-keto-Glc molecule from UDP-C2-keto-Glc to their respective acceptor substrates. Although the R228K-Y289L-β4Gal-T1 mutant enzyme transfers the donor sugar substrate GlcNAc or its analog C2-keto-Glc only to its natural acceptor substrate, GlcNAc, it does not transfer to its analog C2-keto-Glc. Thus, these observations suggest that the GlcNAc-transferring glycosyltransferases can generally accommodate a chemical handle in the N-acetyl-binding cavity of the donor sugar substrate, but not in the N-acetyl-binding cavity of the acceptor sugar.

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