Selective detection and site-analysis of O-GlcNAc-modified glycopeptides by β-elimination and tandem electrospray mass spectrometry

Kenneth D. Greis, Bradley K. Hayes, Frank I. Comer, Marion Kirk, Stephen Barnes, Todd L. Lowary, Gerald Warren Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Over the past decade, a number of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins have been identified that are modified by single N-acetylglucosamine residues attached to the hydroxyl side chain of serines or threonines (O-GlcNAc). O- GlcNAc is a dynamic modification and therefore may act in a regulatory capacity analogous to phosphorylation. To undertake site-directed mutagenesis studies of O-GlcNAc's function, it is necessary to identify the sites of glycosylation on various proteins. The current method of site mapping, which involves galactosyltransferase labeling, generation of glycopeptides by proteolysis, purification by several rounds of HPLC, and gas-phase and manual Edman sequencing, is very tedious and requires about 10 pmol of pure, labeled glycopeptide. In this report, synthetic glycopeptides were generated and used to demonstrate that O-GlcNAc-modified peptides can be rapidly identified in complex mixtures by HPLC-coupled electrospray mass spectrometry due to the partial loss of the O-linked glycan (204 amu) at a modest orifice potential. Furthermore, the exact site of glycosylation was directly identified in the low picomole range by collision-induced dissociation (CID) of the glycopeptide after removal of the O-GlcNAc by alkaline β-elimination. The conversion of glycosylserine to 2-amino-propenoic acid (2-ap) by β- elimination both decreased the mass of the glycopeptide by 222 amu and resulted in a CID fragment ion representing the loss of 69 amu (2-ap) instead of 87 amu (Ser) at the position of the glycosylserine. Finally, we tested this method on an identical synthetic, α-linked O-GalNAc-modified peptide. Like O-GlcNAc, the O-GalNAc moiety was selectively removed at a modest orifice potential; however, the β-elimination conditions that efficiently removed the O-GlcNAc only liberated about 20% of the O-GalNAc. We conclude that the selectivity and the sensitivity of this method will make it a powerful tool for determining the sites of O-GlcNAc modification on proteins of low abundance such as transcription factors and oncogenes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-49
Number of pages12
JournalAnalytical Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology


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