GalNAc-T isozyme surface charge governs charge substrate preferences to modulate mucin type O-glycosylation.
A large family of GalNAc-Ts initiate mucin type O-glycosylation transferring α-GalNAc from a UDP-GalNAc donor to the hydroxyl groups of Ser and Thr residues of peptides and proteins, thereby defining sites of O-glycosylation. Mutations and differential expression of several GalNAc-Ts are associated with many disease states including cancers. The mechanisms by which these isozymes choose their targets and their roles in disease are not fully understood. We previously showed that the GalNAc-Ts possess common and unique specificities for acceptor type, peptide sequence and prior neighboring and/or remote substrate GalNAc glycosylation. In the present study the role of flanking charged residues was investigated using a library of charged peptide substrates containing the central -YAVTPGP- acceptor sequence. Eleven human and one bird GalNAc-Ts were initially characterized revealing a range of preferences for net positive, net negative, or for unique combinations of flanking N- and/or C-terminal charge, correlating to each isozyme's different electrostatic surface potential. It was further found that isoforms with high sequence identity (>70%) within a subfamily can possess vastly different charge specificities. Enzyme kinetics, activities obtained at elevated ionic strength, and molecular dynamics simulations confirm that the GalNAc-Ts differently recognize substrate charge outside the common +/-3 residue binding site. These electrostatic interactions impact how charged peptide substrates bind/orient on the transferase surface, thus modulating their activities. In summary, we show the GalNAc-Ts utilize more extended surfaces than initially thought for binding substrates based on electrostatic, and likely other hydrophobic/hydrophilic interactions, furthering our understanding of how these transferases select their target.