Glycans decorate eukaryotic cell surface and secreted proteins, where they are poised to mediate a variety of molecular recognition events involved in attachment viruses and bacterial infection, immune cell activation, cancer metastasis and organ development. Many biological functions of cell-surface glycans can only be studied in the context of living cells. In addition to a glycan's primary structure, the architecture of its protein scaffold, as well as its density and distribution on the cell surface can all contribute to biological activity. Unfortunately, the heterogeneous nature of cell surfaces, particularly with respect to glycoconjugate structures, has frustrated molecular-level studies of glycan function. The controlled presentation of structurally defined glycoconjugates on live cells is therefore an important capability for accelerating research in glycobiology. The broad objective of this project is to develop chemical approaches for engineering cell surface glycan structures. During the previous granting period, we developed a method for controlling the activity of glycan biosynthetic enzymes in the Golgi compartment using the chemical inducer of dimerization strategy. We engineered Golgi sulfotransferases and glycosyltransferases for control by chemical dimerizers and demonstrated that cell surface expression of selectin ligands and blood group antigens can be modulated accordingly. We also developed a chemical dimerizer for applications in animal models. The next granting period we will focus three specific Aims. First, we will develop a method for site- specific chemical modification of cell surface proteins with synthetic, structurally-defined glycans. The method employs the 6-residue consensus sequence for formylglycine generating enzyme (FGE), which drives the formation of formylglycine (FGly) from a genetically encoded cysteine residue. The aldehyde functionality of FGly provides a uniquely reactive site to which synthetic aminooxy glycans can be ligated via oxime formation. We will use the """"""""aldehyde tag"""""""" to modify recombinant cell surface proteins with tailored glycans. Applications to the construction of artificial cell surface mucins and to studies of the P-selectin ligand PSGL-1 are proposed.
The second Aim i nvolves application of the aldehyde tag to biophysical studies of the natural cell-surface mucin MUC1. The third and final Aim focuses on a second technology for engineering cell surface glycans. We plan to develop synthetic polymers that mimic mucin glycoproteins and to study their behavior when inserted into live cell membranes. We will investigate their cell surface dynamics and membrane orientations. The synthetic mucin mimics will then be applied to studies of siglec recognition and signaling.

Public Health Relevance

Complex sugars decorate the surfaces of cells, where they play a role in cell-cell interactions involved in normal biological processes and also in human disease. The goal of this research is to develop chemical tools for studying the functions of complex sugars on the cell surface. These tools will improve our understanding of how sugars contribute to diseases such as cancer and inflammation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Synthetic and Biological Chemistry A Study Section (SBCA)
Program Officer
Marino, Pamela
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Berkeley
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Barnes, J Matthew; Kaushik, Shelly; Bainer, Russell O et al. (2018) A tension-mediated glycocalyx-integrin feedback loop promotes mesenchymal-like glioblastoma. Nat Cell Biol 20:1203-1214
Zhou, Matthew N; Delaveris, Corleone S; Kramer, Jessica R et al. (2018) N-Carboxyanhydride Polymerization of Glycopolypeptides That Activate Antigen-Presenting Cells through Dectin-1 and Dectin-2. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 57:3137-3142
Freeman, Spencer A; Vega, Anthony; Riedl, Magdalena et al. (2018) Transmembrane Pickets Connect Cyto- and Pericellular Skeletons Forming Barriers to Receptor Engagement. Cell 172:305-317.e10
Woods, Elliot C; Kai, FuiBoon; Barnes, J Matthew et al. (2017) A bulky glycocalyx fosters metastasis formation by promoting G1 cell cycle progression. Elife 6:
Barnes, J Matthew; Przybyla, Laralynne; Weaver, Valerie M (2017) Tissue mechanics regulate brain development, homeostasis and disease. J Cell Sci 130:71-82
Freeman, Spencer A; Goyette, Jesse; Furuya, Wendy et al. (2016) Integrins Form an Expanding Diffusional Barrier that Coordinates Phagocytosis. Cell 164:128-140
Bhat, Ramray; Belardi, Brian; Mori, Hidetoshi et al. (2016) Nuclear repartitioning of galectin-1 by an extracellular glycan switch regulates mammary morphogenesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:E4820-7
Hudak, Jason E; Belardi, Brian; Appel, Mason J et al. (2016) Piperidine-based glycodendrons as protein N-glycan prosthetics. Bioorg Med Chem 24:4791-4800
Kai, FuiBoon; Laklai, Hanane; Weaver, Valerie M (2016) Force Matters: Biomechanical Regulation of Cell Invasion and Migration in Disease. Trends Cell Biol 26:486-497
Xiao, Han; Woods, Elliot C; Vukojicic, Petar et al. (2016) Precision glycocalyx editing as a strategy for cancer immunotherapy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:10304-9

Showing the most recent 10 out of 63 publications