Polypeptide GalNAc-Ts: from redundancy to specificity.
Mucin-type O-glycosylation is a post-translational modification (PTM) that is predicted to occur in more than the 80% of the proteins that pass through the Golgi apparatus. This PTM is initiated by a family of polypeptide GalNAc-transferases (GalNAc-Ts) that modify Ser and Thr residues of proteins through the addition of a GalNAc moiety. These enzymes are type II membrane proteins that consist of a Golgi luminal catalytic domain connected by a flexible linker to a ricin type lectin domain. Together, both domains account for the different glycosylation preferences observed among isoenzymes. Although it is well accepted that most of the family members share some degree of redundancy toward their protein and glycoprotein substrates, it has been recently found that several GalNAc-Ts also possess activity toward specific targets. Despite the high similarity between isoenzymes, structural differences have recently been reported that are key to understanding the molecular basis of both their redundancy and specificity. The present review focuses on the molecular aspects of the protein substrate recognition and the different glycosylation preferences of these enzymes, which in turn will serve as a roadmap to the rational design of specific modulators of mucin-type O-glycosylation.