Dynamic modification of cytoplasmic and nuclear proteins by O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) on Ser/Thr residues is ubiquitous in higher eukaryotes and is analogous to protein phosphorylation. The enzyme for the addition of this modification, O-GlcNAc transferase, has been cloned from several species. Here, we have cloned a human brain O-GlcNAcase that cleaves O-GlcNAc off proteins. The cloned cDNA encodes a polypeptide of 916 amino acids with a predicted molecular mass of 103 kDa and a pI value of 4.63, but the protein migrates as a 130-kDa band on SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The cloned O-GlcNAcase has a pH optimum of 5.5-7.0 and is inhibited by GlcNAc but not by GalNAc. p-Nitrophenyl (pNP)-β-GlcNAc, but not pNP-β-GalNAc or pNP-α-GlcNAc, is a substrate. The cloned enzyme cleaves GlcNAc, but not GalNAc, from glycopeptides. Cell fractionation suggests that the overexpressed protein is mostly localized in the cytoplasm. It therefore has all the expected characteristics of O-GlcNAcase and is distinct from lysosomal hexosaminidases. Northern blots show that the transcript is expressed in every human tissue examined but is the highest in the brain, placenta, and pancreas. An understanding of O-GlcNAc dynamics and O-GlcNAcase may be key to elucidating the relationships between O-phosphate and O-GlcNAc and to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and neurodegeneration.
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