Flowers SA, Lane CS, Karlsson NG
Anal. Chem. 91 (15) 9819-9827 [2019-08-06; online 2019-07-11]
Glycosylation is a fundamental post-translational modification, occurring on half of all proteins. Despite its significance, our understanding is limited, in part due to the inherent difficulty in studying these branched, multi-isomer structures. Accessible, detailed, and quantifiable methods for studying glycans, particularly O-glycans, are needed. Here we take a multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) approach to differentiate and relatively quantify all detectable glycans, including isomers, on the heavily O-glycosylated protein lubricin. Lubricin (proteoglycan 4) is essential for lubrication of the joint and eye. Given the therapeutic potential of lubricin, it is essential to understand its O-glycan repertoire in biological and recombinantly produced samples. O-Glycans were released by reductive β-elimination and defined, showing a range of 26 neutral, sulfated, sialylated, and both sulfated and sialylated core 1 (Galβ1-3GalNAcα1-) and core 2 (Galβ1-3(GlcNAcβ1-6)GalNAcα1-) structures. Isomer-specific MRM transitions allowed effective differentiation of neutral glycan isomers as well as sulfated isomeric structures, where the sulfate was retained on the fragment ions. This strategy was not as effective with labile sialylated structures; instead, it was observed that the optimal collision energy for the m/z 290.1 sialic acid B-fragment differed consistently between sialic acid isomers, allowing differentiation between isomers when fragmentation spectra were insufficient. This approach was also effective for purchased Neu5Acα2-3Galβ1-4Glc and Neu5Acα2-6Galβ1-4Glc and for Neu5Acα2-3Galβ1-4GlcNAc and Neu5Acα2-6Galβ1-4GlcNAc linkage isomers with the Neu5Acα2-6 consistently requiring more energy for optimal generation of the m/z 290.1 fragment. Overall, this method provides an effective and easily accessible approach for the quantification and annotation of complex released O-glycan samples.