The addition of the monosaccharide beta-N-acetyl-D-glucosamine to proteins (O-GlcNAc glycosylation) is an intracellular, post-translational modification that shares features with phosphorylation. Understanding the cellular mechanisms and signaling pathways that regulate O-GlcNAc glycosylation has been challenging because of the difficulty of detecting and quantifying the modification. Here, we describe a new strategy for monitoring the dynamics of O-GlcNAc glycosylation using quantitative mass spectrometry-based proteomics. Our method, which we have termed quantitative isotopic and chemoenzymatic tagging (QUIC-Tag), combines selective, chemoenzymatic tagging of O-GlcNAc proteins with an efficient isotopic labeling strategy. Using the method, we detect changes in O-GlcNAc glycosylation on several proteins involved in the regulation of transcription and mRNA translocation. We also provide the first evidence that O-GlcNAc glycosylation is dynamically modulated by excitatory stimulation of the brain in vivo. Finally, we use electron-transfer dissociation mass spectrometry to identify exact sites of O-GlcNAc modification. Together, our studies suggest that O-GlcNAc glycosylation occurs reversibly in neurons and, akin to phosphorylation, may have important roles in mediating the communication between neurons.
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