The structures of glycophorin C N-glycans, a putative component of the GPC receptor site for Plasmodium falciparum EBA-140 ligand

Ashline DJ, Duk M, Lukasiewicz J, Reinhold VN, Lisowska E, Jaskiewicz E. Glycobiology. 2015 May;25(5):570-81. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwu188. PMID: 25552259

Glycophorins C and D are highly glycosylated integral sialoglycoproteins of human red blood cell membranes carrying the Gerbich blood group antigens. The O- and N-glycosidic chains of the major erythrocyte glycoprotein (Lisowska E. 2001, Antigenic properties of human glycophorins – an update. Adv Exp Med Biol, 491:155-169; Tomita M and Marchesi VT. 1975, Amino-acid sequence and oligosaccharide attachment sites of human erythrocyte glycophorin. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 72:2964-2968.) are well characterized but the structure of GPC N-glycans has remained unknown. This problem became important since it was reported that GPC N-glycans play an essential role in the interaction with Plasmodium falciparum EBA-140 merozoite ligand. The elucidation of these structures seems essential for full characterization of the GPC binding site for the EBA-140 ligand. We have employed detailed structural analysis using sequential mass spectrometry to show that many GPC N-glycans contain H2 antigen structures and several contain polylactosamine structures capped with fucose. The results obtained indicate structural heterogeneity of the GPC N-glycans and show the existence of structural elements not found in glycophorin A N-glycans. Our results also open a possibility of new interpretation of the data concerning the binding of P. falciparum EBA-140 ligand to GPC. We hypothesize that preferable terminal fucosylation of N-glycosidic chains containing repeating lactosamine units of the GPC Gerbich variant could be an explanation for why the EBA-140 ligand does not react with GPC Gerbich and an indication that the EBA-140 interaction with GPC is distinctly dependent on the GPC N-glycan structure.