• Open Access

Expression of rat β(1,4)-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase III in Nicotiana tabacum remodels the plant-specific N-glycosylation


* Correspondence (fax +41 44 632 11 48; e-mail alexander.frey@micro.biol.ethz.ch)


Plant N-linked glycans differ substantially from their mammalian counterparts, mainly with respect to modifications of the core glycan, which typically contains a β(1,2)-xylose and an α(1,3)-fucose. The addition of a bisecting N-acetylglucosamine residue by β(1,4)-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase III (GnTIII) is known to control the processing of N-linked glycans in mammals, for example by preventing α(1,6)-fucosylation of the core glycan. In order to outcompete plant-specific β(1,2)-xylose and α(1,3)-fucose modifications, rat GnTIII was expressed either with its native localization domain (GnTIII) or with the cytoplasmic tail, transmembrane domain and stem region (CTS) of Arabidopsis thaliana mannosidase II (ManII) (GnTIIIA.th.). Both CTSs targeted enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (eYFP) to a brefeldin A-sensitive compartment, indicative of Golgi localization. GnTIII expression increased the fraction of N-glycans devoid of xylose and fucose from 13% ± 7% in wild-type plants to 60% ± 8% in plants expressing GnTIIIA.th.. N-Glycans of plants expressing rat GnTIII contained three major glycan structures of complex bisected, complex, or hybrid bisected type, accounting for 70%–85% of the total N-glycans. On expression of GnTIIIA.th., N-glycans displayed a higher heterogeneity and were of hybrid type. Co-expression of A. thaliana ManII significantly increased the amount of complex bisected structures relative to the plants expressing GnTIII or GnTIIIA.th., whereas co-expression of human ManII did not redirect the pool of hybrid structures towards complex-type structures. The method described offers the advantage that it can be implemented in any desired plant system for effective removal of β(1,2)-xylose and α(1,3)-fucose from the N-glycan.