In a previous study with inhibitors of N-glycosylation, it was proposed that core glycosylation of the folate receptor (FR) is required for the proper folding of the protein [Luhrs (1991) Blood 77, 1171-1180]. The human FR isoforms type α and type β have three and two candidate sites for N-glycosylation respectively, only one of which is conserved. The significance of N-glycosylation at each of these loci in the expression and function of FR was examined by eliminating the sites both individually and in combination by introducing Asn → Gln substitutions. Translation experiments in vitro showed that the mutations did not alter the synthetic rates of the polypeptides. The recombinant proteins were expressed in human 293 fibroblasts. Treatment with N-glycanase and analysis by Western blotting of the wild-type and mutant proteins revealed that all of the candidate sites in both FR-α and FR-β are glycosylated. When all of the N-glycosylation sites were abolished, 2% and 8% of FR-α and FR-β respectively were expressed on the cell surface compared with the corresponding wild-type proteins; the residual FR polypeptides in the cell lysates were unable to bind [3H]folic acid. In both the proteins, the inclusion of each additional N-glycosylation site partly contributed to restoration of cell surface [3H]folic acid binding and receptor-mediated folate transport. Further, in FR-β the introduction of an additional unnatural site of N-glycosylation resulted in the enhancement of the expression of the cell surface receptor compared with the wild-type protein. The results indicate that the total mass of N-glycosylation, not a specific locus of the modification, is critical for the efficient folding and optimal expression of functional FR-α and FR-β.
- The Biochemical Society, London © 1997