The alteration of proteins by post-translational modifications, including phosphorylation, sulphation, processing by proteolysis, lipid attachment and glycosylation, gives rise to a broad range of molecules that can have an identical underlying protein core. An understanding of glycosylation of proteins is important in clarifying the nature of the numerous variants observed and in determining the biological roles of these modifications. Deglycosylation with TFMS (trifluoromethanesulphonic acid) [Edge, Faltynek, Hof, Reichert, and Weber, (1981) Anal. Biochem. 118, 131–137] has been used extensively to remove carbohydrate from glycoproteins, while leaving the protein backbone intact. Glycosylated proteins from animals, plants, fungi and bacteria have been deglycosylated with TFMS, and the most extensively studied types of carbohydrate chains in mammals, the N-linked, O-linked and glycosaminoglycan chains, are all removed by this procedure. The method is based on the finding that linkages between sugars are sensitive to cleavage by TFMS, whereas the peptide bond is stable and is not broken, even with prolonged deglycosylation. The relative susceptibility of individual sugars in glycosidic linkage varies with the substituents at C-2 and the occurrence of amido and acetyl groups, but even the most stable sugars are removed under conditions that are sufficiently mild to prevent scission of peptide bonds. The post-translational modifications of proteins have been shown to be required for diverse biological functions, and selective procedures to remove these modifications play an important role in the elucidation of protein structure and function.
- posttranslational modification
- protein structure
- trifluoromethanesulphonic acid (TFMS)
Abbreviations used: a.m.u., atomic mass units; CEA, carcinoembryonic antigen; endo F and endo H, endo-β-N-acetylglucosaminidase F and H respectively; MALDI–TOF, matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization–time-of-flight; TFMS, trifluoromethanesulphonic acid.
- The Biochemical Society, London ©2003