BACKGROUND: GlycA is a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) signal in plasma that correlates with inflammation and cardiovascular outcomes in large data sets. The signal is thought to originate from N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) residues of branched plasma N-glycans, though direct experimental evidence is limited. Trace element concentrations affect plasma glycosylation patterns and may thereby also influence GlycA.
METHODS: NMR GlycA signal was measured in plasma samples from 87 individuals and correlated with MALDI-MS N-glycomics and trace element analysis. We further evaluated the genetic association with GlycA at rs13107325, a single nucleotide polymorphism resulting in a missense variant within SLC39A8, a manganese transporter that influences N-glycan branching, both in our samples and existing genome-wide association studies data from 22 835 participants in the Women's Health Study (WHS).
RESULTS: GlycA signal was correlated with both N-glycan branching (r2 ranging from 0.125-0.265; all P < 0.001) and copper concentration (r2 = 0.348, P < 0.0001). In addition, GlycA levels were associated with rs13107325 genotype in the WHS (β [standard error of the mean] = -4.66 [1.2674], P = 0.0002).
CONCLUSIONS: These results provide the first direct experimental evidence linking the GlycA NMR signal to N-glycan branching commonly associated with acute phase reactive proteins involved in inflammation.