Norman Dovichi and colleagues at the Universities of Notre Dame and Wisconsin-Madison, USA, focused their attention on the role of molecules called N-glycans in vertebrate development. N-glycans are relatively small carbohydrate-based structures that are commonly attached to much larger protein molecules by a chemical bond to a nitrogen atom. They are believed to be crucial for many biochemical signalling processes and other functions. However, many details about their roles remain unclear.
Dovichi and colleagues identified and quantified the N-glycans present at six key stages in the development of X. laevis embryos. They noticed a big shift in the types of N-glycans that were present, and in their relative abundances, at a specific stage when development of the nervous system is getting into full flow. They propose that this ‘massive reprogramming’ of N-glycan activity suggests that N-glycans must play a vital role in the development of the nervous system of the frog, and by implication also in humans.
The researchers also examined proteins that had N-glycans attached, and found that that many were known to be associated with the development of nerve cells.
This pioneering study points to aspects of N-glycan activity that should now be investigated further, to learn more about how the nervous system is formed, perhaps eventually revealing new ways to prevent and treat nervous system defects and diseases.
Read the article: Quantitative Capillary Zone Electrophoresis-Mass Spectrometry Reveals the N-glycome Developmental Plan during Vertebrate Embryogenesis, Yanyan Qu, Kyle M. Dubiak, Elizabeth H. Peuchen, Matthew M. Champion, Zhenbin Zhang, Alex S. Hebert, Sarah Wright, Joshua J. Coon, Paul W. Huber and Norman J. Dovichi, Molecular Omics, 2020, Advance Article. DOI: 10.1039/D0MO00005A
This article is part of the Glycomics & Glycoproteomics: From Analytics to Function themed collection, guest-edited by Nicolle Packer, Morten Andersen and Daniel Kolarich.