Yang C, Deng Y, Wang Y, Xia C, Mehta AY, Baker KJ, Samal A, Booneimsri P, Lertmaneedang C, Hwang S, et al. Heparan sulfate glycomimetics via iterative assembly of "clickable" disaccharides. Chemical science. 2023;14(13):3514–3522. doi:10.1039/d3sc00260h

Heparan sulfate (HS) glycosaminoglycans are widely expressed on the mammalian cell surfaces and extracellular matrices and play important roles in a variety of cell functions. Studies on the structure-activity relationships of HS have long been hampered by the challenges in obtaining chemically defined HS structures with unique sulfation patterns. Here, we report a new approach to HS glycomimetics based on iterative assembly of clickable disaccharide building blocks that mimic the disaccharide repeating units of native HS. Variably sulfated clickable disaccharides were facilely assembled into a library of mass spec-sequenceable HS-mimetic oligomers with defined sulfation patterns by solution-phase iterative syntheses. Microarray and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) binding assays corroborated molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and confirmed that these HS-mimetic oligomers bind protein fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) in a sulfation-dependent manner consistent with that of the native HS. This work established a general approach to HS glycomimetics that can potentially serve as alternatives to native HS in both fundamental research and disease models.

Prasanphanich NS, Leon K, Secor E, Shoemaker CB, Heimburg-Molinaro J, Cummings RD. Anti-schistosomal immunity to core xylose/fucose in N-glycans. Frontiers in molecular biosciences. 2023;10:1142620. doi:10.3389/fmolb.2023.1142620

Schistosomiasis is a globally prevalent, debilitating disease that is poorly controlled by chemotherapy and for which no vaccine exists. While partial resistance in people may develop over time with repeated infections and treatments, some animals, including the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), are only semi-permissive and have natural protection. To understand the basis of this protection, we explored the nature of the immune response in the brown rat to infection by Schistosoma mansoni. Infection leads to production of IgG to parasite glycoproteins with complex-type N-glycans that contain a non-mammalian-type modification by core α2-Xylose and core α3-Fucose (core Xyl/Fuc). These epitopes are expressed on the surfaces of schistosomula and adult worms. Importantly, IgG to these epitopes can kill schistosomula by a complement-dependent process in vitro. Additionally, sera from both infected rhesus monkey and infected brown rat were capable of killing schistosomula in a manner inhibited by glycopeptides containing core Xyl/Fuc. These results demonstrate that protective antibodies to schistosome infections in brown rats and rhesus monkeys include IgG responses to the core Xyl/Fuc epitopes in surface-expressed N-glycans, and raise the potential of novel glyco-based vaccines that might be developed to combat this disease.

Swanson NJ, Marinho P, Dziedzic A, Jedlicka A, Liu H, Fenstermacher K, Rothman R, Pekosz A. 2019-2020 H1N1 clade A5a.1 viruses have better in vitro fitness compared with the co-circulating A5a.2 clade. Scientific reports. 2023;13(1):10223. doi:10.1038/s41598-023-37122-z

Surveillance for emerging human influenza virus clades is important for identifying changes in viral fitness and assessing antigenic similarity to vaccine strains. While fitness and antigenic structure are both important aspects of virus success, they are distinct characteristics and do not always change in a complementary manner. The 2019-2020 Northern Hemisphere influenza season saw the emergence of two H1N1 clades: A5a.1 and A5a.2. While several studies indicated that A5a.2 showed similar or even increased antigenic drift compared with A5a.1, the A5a.1 clade was still the predominant circulating clade that season. Clinical isolates of representative viruses from these clades were collected in Baltimore, Maryland during the 2019-2020 season and multiple assays were performed to compare both antigenic drift and viral fitness between clades. Neutralization assays performed on serum from healthcare workers pre- and post-vaccination during the 2019-2020 season show a comparable drop in neutralizing titers against both A5a.1 and A5a.2 viruses compared with the vaccine strain, indicating that A5a.1 did not have antigenic advantages over A5a.2 that would explain its predominance in this population. Plaque assays were performed to investigate fitness differences, and the A5a.2 virus produced significantly smaller plaques compared with viruses from A5a.1 or the parental A5a clade. To assess viral replication, low MOI growth curves were performed on both MDCK-SIAT and primary differentiated human nasal epithelial cell cultures. In both cell cultures, A5a.2 yielded significantly reduced viral titers at multiple timepoints post-infection compared with A5a.1 or A5a. Receptor binding was then investigated through glycan array experiments which showed a reduction in receptor binding diversity for A5a.2, with fewer glycans bound and a higher percentage of total binding attributable to the top three highest bound glycans. Together these data indicate that the A5a.2 clade had a reduction in viral fitness, including reductions in receptor binding, that may have contributed to the limited prevalence observed after emergence.

Cummings RD. Glycosphingolipids in human parasites. FEBS open bio. 2023;13(9):1625–1635. doi:10.1002/2211-5463.13662

Glycosphingolipids (GSLs) are comprised of glycans (oligosaccharides) linked to a lipid containing a sphingosine moiety. They are major membrane components in cells of most animals, and importantly, they also occur in parasitic protozoans and worms that infect people. While the endogenous functions of the GSLs in most parasites are elusive, many of these GSLs are recognized by antibodies in infected human and animal hosts, and thus, their structures, biosynthesis, and functions are of great interest. Such knowledge of GSLs could lead to new drugs and diagnostics for treating infections, as well as novel vaccine strategies. The diversity of GSLs recently identified in such infectious organisms and aspects of their immune recognition are major topics of this review. It is not intended to be exhaustive but to highlight aspects of GSL glycans in human parasites.

Kudelka MR, Gu W, Matsumoto Y, Ju T, Barnes RH Ii, Kardish RJ, Heimburg-Molinaro J, Lehoux S, Zeng J, Cohen C, et al. Targeting altered glycosylation in secreted tumor glycoproteins for broad cancer detection. Glycobiology. 2023;33(7):567–578. doi:10.1093/glycob/cwad035

There is an urgent need to develop new tumor biomarkers for early cancer detection, but the variability of tumor-derived antigens has been a limitation. Here we demonstrate a novel anti-Tn antibody microarray platform to detect Tn+ glycoproteins, a near universal antigen in carcinoma-derived glycoproteins, for broad detection of cancer. The platform uses a specific recombinant IgG1 to the Tn antigen (CD175) as a capture reagent and a recombinant IgM to the Tn antigen as a detecting reagent. These reagents were validated by immunohistochemistry in recognizing the Tn antigen using hundreds of human tumor specimens. Using this approach, we could detect Tn+ glycoproteins at subnanogram levels using cell lines and culture media, serum, and stool samples from mice engineered to express the Tn antigen in intestinal epithelial cells. The development of a general cancer detection platform using recombinant antibodies for detection of altered tumor glycoproteins expressing a unique antigen could have a significant impact on cancer detection and monitoring.

Azzouz DF, Chen Z, Izmirly PM, Chen LA, Li Z, Zhang C, Mieles D, Trujillo K, Heguy A, Pironti A, et al. Longitudinal gut microbiome analyses and blooms of pathogenic strains during lupus disease flares. Annals of the rheumatic diseases. 2023;82(10):1315–1327. doi:10.1136/ard-2023-223929

OBJECTIVE: Whereas genetic susceptibility for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has been well explored, the triggers for clinical disease flares remain elusive. To investigate relationships between microbiota community resilience and disease activity, we performed the first longitudinal analyses of lupus gut-microbiota communities.

METHODS: In an observational study, taxononomic analyses, including multivariate analysis of ß-diversity, assessed time-dependent alterations in faecal communities from patients and healthy controls. From gut blooms, strains were isolated, with genomes and associated glycans analysed.

RESULTS: Multivariate analyses documented that, unlike healthy controls, significant temporal community-wide ecological microbiota instability was common in SLE patients, and transient intestinal growth spikes of several pathogenic species were documented. Expansions of only the anaerobic commensal, Ruminococcus (blautia) gnavus (RG) occurred at times of high-disease activity, and were detected in almost half of patients during lupus nephritis (LN) disease flares. Whole genome sequence analysis of RG strains isolated during these flares documented 34 genes postulated to aid adaptation and expansion within a host with an inflammatory condition. Yet, the most specific feature of strains found during lupus flares was the common expression of a novel type of cell membrane-associated lipoglycan. These lipoglycans share conserved structural features documented by mass spectroscopy, and highly immunogenic repetitive antigenic-determinants, recognised by high-level serum IgG2 antibodies, that spontaneously arose, concurrent with RG blooms and lupus flares.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings rationalise how blooms of the RG pathobiont may be common drivers of clinical flares of often remitting-relapsing lupus disease, and highlight the potential pathogenic properties of specific strains isolated from active LN patients.

Suttapitugsakul S, Matsumoto Y, Aryal RP, Cummings RD. Large-Scale and Site-Specific Mapping of the Murine Brain O-Glycoproteome with IMPa. Analytical chemistry. 2023;95(36):13423–13430. doi:10.1021/acs.analchem.3c00408

Altered protein glycosylation is typically associated with cognitive defects and other phenotypes, but there is a lack of knowledge about the brain glycoproteome. Here, we used the newly available O-glycoprotease IMPa from Pseudomonas aeruginosa for comprehensive O-glycoproteomic analyses of the mouse brain. In this approach, total tryptic glycopeptides were prepared, extracted, purified, and conjugated to a solid support before an enzymatic cleavage by IMPa. O-glycopeptides were analyzed by electron-transfer/higher-energy collision dissociation (EThcD), which permits site-specific and global analysis of all types of O-glycans. We developed two complementary approaches for the analysis of the total O-glycoproteome using HEK293 cells and derivatives. The results demonstrated that IMPa and EThcD facilitate the confident localization of O-glycans on glycopeptides. We then applied these approaches to characterize the O-glycoproteome of the mouse brain, which revealed the high frequency of various sialylated O-glycans along with the unusual presence of the Tn antigen. Unexpectedly, the results demonstrated that glycoproteins in the brain O-glycoproteome only partly overlap with those reported for the brain N-glycoproteome. These approaches will aid in identifying the novel O-glycoproteomes of different cells and tissues and foster clinical and translational insights into the functions of protein O-glycosylation in the brain and other organs.

Goth CK, Mehta AY, McQuillan AM, Baker KJ, Hanes MS, Park SS, Stavenhagen K, Hjortø GM, Heimburg-Molinaro J, Chaikof EL, et al. Chemokine binding to PSGL-1 is controlled by O-glycosylation and tyrosine sulfation. Cell chemical biology. 2023;30(8):893–905.e7. doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2023.06.013

Protein glycosylation influences cellular recognition and regulates protein interactions, but how glycosylation functions alongside other common posttranslational modifications (PTMs), like tyrosine sulfation (sTyr), is unclear. We produced a library of 53 chemoenzymatically synthesized glycosulfopeptides representing N-terminal domains of human and murine P-selectin glycoprotein ligand-1 (PSGL-1), varying in sTyr and O-glycosylation (structure and site). Using these, we identified key roles of PSGL-1 O-glycosylation and sTyr in controlling interactions with specific chemokines. Results demonstrate that sTyr positively affects CCL19 and CCL21 binding to PSGL-1 N terminus, whereas O-glycan branching and sialylation reduced binding. For murine PSGL-1, interference between PTMs is greater, attributed to proximity between the two PTMs. Using fluorescence polarization, we found sTyr is a positive determinant for some chemokines. We showed that synthetic sulfopeptides are potent in decreasing chemotaxis of human dendritic cells toward CCL19 and CCL21. Our results provide new research avenues into the interplay of PTMs regulating leukocyte/chemokine interactions.


Noel M, Chasman D, Mora S, Otvos J, Palmer C, Parsons P, W SJ, Cummings R, Mealer R. The Inflammation Biomarker GlycA Reflects Plasma N-Glycan Branching. Clinical Chemistry. 2022;hvac160.


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.


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).


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).


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.

Suttapitugsakul S, Stavenhagen K, Donskaya S, Bennett D, Mealer R, Seyfried N, Cummings R. Glycoproteomics Landscape of Asymptomatic and Symptomatic Human Alzheimer’s Disease Brain. Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. 2022.
Molecular changes in the brain of individuals afflicted with Alzheimer's disease (AD) are an intense area of study. Little is known about the role of protein abundance and post-translational modifications in AD progression and treatment, in particular large-scale intact N-linked glycoproteomics analysis. To elucidate the N-glycoproteome landscape, we developed an approach based on multi-lectin affinity enrichment, hydrophilic interaction chromatography (HILIC), and LC-MS-based glycoproteomics. We analyzed brain tissue from 10 persons with no cognitive impairment or AD, 10 with asymptomatic AD, and 10 with symptomatic AD, detecting over 300 glycoproteins and 1,900 glycoforms across the samples. The majority of glycoproteins have N-glycans that are high-mannosidic or complex chains that are fucosylated and bisected. The Man5 N-glycan was found to occur most frequently at >20% of the total glycoforms. Unlike the glycoproteomes of other tissues, sialylation is a minor feature of the brain N-glycoproteome, occurring at <9% among the glycoforms. We observed AD-associated differences in the number of antennae, frequency of fucosylation, bisection, and other monosaccharides at individual glycosylation sites among samples from our three groups. Further analysis revealed glycosylation differences in subcellular compartments across disease stage, including glycoproteins in the lysosome frequently modified with paucimannosidic glycans. These results illustrate the N-glycoproteomics landscape across the spectrum of AD clinical and pathologic severity, and will facilitate a deeper understanding of progression and treatment development.