Novel UDP-GalNAc derivative structures provide insight into the donor specificity of human blood group glycosyltransferase [Enzymology]

November 2nd, 2015 by Wagner, G. K., Pesnot, T., Palcic, M. M., Jorgensen, R.

Two closely related glycosyltranferases are responsible for the final step of the biosynthesis of ABO(H) human blood group A and B antigens. The two enzymes differ by only four amino acid residues, which determine whether the enzymes transfer GalNAc from UDP-GalNAc or Gal from UDP-Gal to the H-antigen acceptor. The enzymes belong to the class of GT-A folded enzymes, grouped as GT6 in the CAZy database, and are characterized by a single domain with a metal dependent retaining reaction mechanism. However, the exact role of the four amino acid residues in the specificity of the enzymes is still unresolved. In this study, we report the first structural information of a dual specificity cis-AB blood group glycosyltransferase in complex with a synthetic UDP-GalNAc derivative. Interestingly, the GalNAc moiety adopts an unusual yet catalytically productive conformation in the binding pocket, which is different from the "tucked under" conformation previously observed for the UDP-Gal donor. In addition, we show that this UDP-GalNAc derivative in complex with the H-antigen acceptor provokes the same unusual binding pocket closure as seen for the corresponding UDP-Gal derivative. Despite this, the two derivatives show vastly different kinetic properties. Our results provide a important structural insight into the donor substrate specificity and utilization in blood group biosynthesis, which can very likely be exploited for the development of new glycosyltransferase inhibitors and probes.