The underestimated N-glycomes of lepidopteran species

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Background Insects are significant to the environment, agriculture, health and biotechnology. Many of these aspects display some relationship to glycosylation, e.g., in case of pathogen binding or production of humanised antibodies; for a long time, it has been considered that insect N-glycosylation potentials are rather similar and simple, but as more species are glycomically analysed in depth, it is becoming obvious that there is indeed a large structural diversity and interspecies variability. Methods Using an off-line LC-MALDI-TOF MS approach, we have analysed the N-glycomes of two lepidopteran species (the cabbage looper Trichoplusia ni and the gypsy moth Lymantria dispar) as well as of the commonly-used T. ni High Five cell line. Results We detected not only sulphated, glucuronylated, core difucosylated and Lewis-like antennal fucosylated structures, but also the zwitterion phosphorylcholine on antennal GlcNAc residues, a modification otherwise familiar from nematodes; in L. dispar, N-glycans with glycolipid-like antennae containing α-linked N-acetylgalactosamine were also revealed. Conclusion The lepidopteran glycomes analysed not only display core α1,3-fucosylation, which is foreign to mammals, but also up to 5% anionic and/or zwitterionic glycans previously not found in these species. Significance The occurrence of anionic and zwitterionic glycans in the Lepidoptera data is not only of glycoanalytical and evolutionary interest, but is of biotechnological relevance as lepidopteran cell lines are potential factories for recombinant glycoprotein production.




Stanton, R., Hykollari, A., Eckmair, B., Malzl, D., Dragosits, M., Palmberger, D., … Paschinger, K. (2017). The underestimated N-glycomes of lepidopteran species. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects, 1861(4), 699–714.

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