FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Glycosidase inhibitors: inhibitors of N-linked oligosaccharide processing.

PMID 1743438


The biosynthesis of the various types of N-linked oligosaccharide structures involves two series of reactions: 1) the formation of the lipid-linked saccharide precursor, Glc3Man9(GlcNAc)2-pyrophosphoryl-dolichol, by the stepwise addition of GlcNAc, mannose and glucose to dolichyl-P, and 2) the removal of glucose and mannose by membrane-bound glycosidases and the addition of GlcNAc, galactose, sialic acid, and fucose by Golgi-localized glycosyltransferases to produce different complex oligosaccharide structures. For most glycoproteins, the precise role of the carbohydrate is still not known, but specific N-linked oligosaccharide structures are key players in targeting of lysosomal hydrolases to the lysosomes, in the clearance of asialoglycoproteins from the serum, and in some cases of cell:cell adhesion. Furthermore, many glycoproteins have more than one N-linked oligosaccharide, and these oligosaccharides on the same protein frequently have different structures. Thus, one oligosaccharide may be of the high-mannose type whereas another may be a complex chain. One approach to determining the role of specific structures in glycoprotein function is to use inhibitors that block the modification reactions at different steps, causing the cell to produce glycoproteins with altered carbohydrate structures. The function of these glycoproteins can then be assessed. A number of alkaloid-like compounds have been identified that are specific inhibitors of the glucosidases and mannosidases involved in glycoprotein processing. These compounds cause the formation of glycoproteins with glucose-containing high mannose structures, or various high-mannose or hybrid chains, depending on the site of inhibition. These inhibitors have also been useful for studying the processing pathway and for comparing processing enzymes from different organisms.