Gne deletion in mice leads to lethal intracerebral hemorrhage during embryonic development


Wedekind H, Kats E, Weiss A-C, Thiesler H, Klaus C, Kispert A, Horstkorte R, Neumann H, Weinhold B, Münster-Kühnel A, Abeln M

Glycobiology 2021


Among the enzymes of the biosynthesis of sialoglycoconjugates, UDP-N-acetylglucosamine-2-epimerase/N-acetylmannosamine kinase (GNE), catalyzing the first essential step of the sialic acid (Sia) de novo biosynthesis, and CMP-Sia synthase (CMAS), activating Sia to CMP-Sia, are particularly important. The knockout of either of these enzymes in mice is embryonically lethal. While the lethality of Cmas-/- mice has been attributed to a maternal complement attack against asialo fetal placental cells, the cause of lethality in Gne-deficient embryos has remained elusive. Here, we advanced the significance of sialylation for embryonic development through detailed histological analyses of Gne-/- embryos and placentae. We found that Gne-/- embryonic and extraembryonic tissues are hyposialylated, rather than completely deficient of sialoglycans which holds true for Cmas-/- embryos. Residual sialylation of Gne-/- cells can be explained by scavenging free Sia from sialylated maternal serum glycoconjugates via the lysosomal salvage pathway. The placental architecture of Gne-/- mice was unaffected, but severe hemorrhages in the neuroepithelium with extensive bleeding into the cephalic ventricles were present at E12.5 in the mutants. At E13.5, the vast majority of Gne-/- embryos were asystolic. This phenotype persisted when Gne-/- mice were backcrossed to a complement component 3-deficient background, confirming distinct pathomechanisms of Cmas-/- and Gne-/- mice. We conclude that the low level of sialylation observed in Gne-/- mice is sufficient, both for immune homeostasis at the fetal-maternal interface and for embryonic development until E12.5. However, formation of the neural microvasculature is the first critical process depending on a higher degree of sialylation during development of the embryo proper.

The sialyl-O-acetylesterase NanS of Tannerella forsythia encompasses two catalytic modules with different regiospecificity for O7 and O9 of sialic acid


Albers M, Schröter L, Belousov S, Hartmann M, Grove M, Abeln M, Mühlenhoff M

Glycobiology 2021


The periodontal pathogen Tannerella forsythia utilizes host sialic acids as a nutrient source. To also make O-acetylated sialyl residues susceptible to the action of its sialidase and sialic acid up-take system, Tannerella produces NanS, an O-acetylesterase with two putative catalytic domains. Here, we analyzed NanS by homology modeling, predicted a catalytic serine-histidine-aspartate triad for each catalytic domain and performed individual domain inactivation by single alanine exchanges of the triad nucleophiles S32 and S311. Subsequent functional analyses revealed that both domains possess sialyl-O-acetylesterase activity, but differ in their regioselectivity with respect to position O9 and O7 of sialic acid. The 7-O-acetylesterase activity inherent to the C-terminal domain of NanS is unique among sialyl-O-acetylesterases and fills the current gap in tools targeting 7-O-acetylation. Application of the O7-specific variant NanS-S32A allowed us to evidence the presence of cellular 7,9-di-O-acetylated sialoglycans by monitoring the gain in 9-O-acetylation upon selective removal of acetyl groups from O7. Moreover, we established de-7,9-O-acetylation by wild-type NanS as an easy and efficient method to validate the specific binding of three viral lectins commonly used for the recognition of (7),9-O-acetylated sialoglycans. Their binding critically depends on an acetyl group in O9, yet de-7,9-O-acetylation proved advantageous over de-9-O-acetylation as the additional removal of the 7-O-acetyl group eliminated ligand formation by 7,9-ester migration. Together, our data show that NanS gained dual functionality through recruitment of two esterase modules with complementary activities. This enables Tannerella to scavenge 7,9-di-O-acetylated sialyl residues and provides a novel, O7-specific tool for studying sialic acid O-acetylation.

Sialylation acts as a checkpoint for innate immune responses in the central nervous system


Klaus C, Liao H, Allendorf DH, Brown GC, Neumann H

Glia 2020


Sialic acids are monosaccharides that normally terminate the glycan chains of cell surface glyco-proteins and -lipids in mammals, and are highly enriched in the central nervous tissue. Sialic acids are conjugated to proteins and lipids (termed "sialylation") by specific sialyltransferases, and are removed ("desialylation") by neuraminidases. Cell surface sialic acids are sensed by complement factor H (FH) to inhibit complement activation or by sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectin (SIGLEC) receptors to inhibit microglial activation, phagocytosis, and oxidative burst. In contrast, desialylation of cells enables binding of the opsonins C1, calreticulin, galectin-3, and collectins, stimulating phagocytosis of such cells. Hypersialylation is used by bacteria and cancers as camouflage to escape immune recognition, while polysialylation of neurons protects synapses and neurogenesis. Insufficient lysosomal cleavage of sialylated molecules can lead to lysosomal accumulation of lipids and aggregated proteins, which if excessive may be expelled into the extracellular space. On the other hand, desialylation of immune receptors can activate them or trigger removal of proteins. Loss of inhibitory SIGLECs or FH triggers reduced clearance of aggregates, oxidative brain damage and complement-mediated retinal damage. Thus, cell surface sialylation recognized by FH, SIGLEC, and other immune-related receptors acts as a major checkpoint inhibitor of innate immune responses in the central nervous system, while excessive cleavage of sialic acid residues and consequently removing this checkpoint inhibitor may trigger lipid accumulation, protein aggregation, inflammation, and neurodegeneration.

Differential expression patterns of glycosphingolipids and C-type lectin receptors on immune cells in absence of functional regulatory T cells


Jirmo AC, Rossdam C, Grychtol R, Happle C, Gerardy-Schahn R, Buettner FRR, Hansen G

Immun Inflamm Dis 2020


Background: Glycosylation is a common and complex type of protein posttranslational modification. Altered glycosylation of immunoglobulins in autoimmune diseases has led to the "altered glycan hypothesis" postulating existence of a unique glycan signature on immune cells and extracellular proteins characterized by site-specific relative abundances of individual glycan structures and glycosylation patterns. However, it is not clear how glycosylation on leukocyte subpopulations differ between states of health or inflammation.

Hypothesis: Glycosphingolipid patterns on immune cells of forkhead-box-P3-deficient scurfy mice differs from those on wild-type immune cells.

Methods: T cells and dendritic cells were isolated from spleens of either wild-type or age-matched scurfy mice. Glycosphingolipids of CD4+ T cells and splenic dendritic cells from wild-type and scurfy mice were then analyzed by multiplexed capillary gel electrophoresis coupled to laser-induced fluorescence detection (xCGE-LIF). In addition, flow cytometry and ChipCytometry were used to access expression patterns of various C-type lectin receptors on antigen-presenting cells from various organs of both wild-type and scurfy mice.

Results: We, hereby report differential expression of glycosphingolipids in health and under inflammatory conditions as reflected in wild-type and scurfy mice. Furthermore, we observed that the absence of functional regulatory T cells correlated with elevated expression of CLEC-7A and CD205 but a reduction in levels of CLEC12A and CD206 on antigen-presenting cells.

Conclusion: We hereby show that the absence of functional regulatory T cells affects expression pattern and quantities of glycosphingolipids on immune cells. Thus, glycosphingolipids could serve as biomarkers for mapping genetical and homeostatic perturbances such as those resulting from a diseased condition.

Control of Innate Immunity by Sialic Acids in the Nervous Tissue


Liao H, Klaus C, Neumann H

Int J Mol Sci 2020


Sialic acids (Sias) are the most abundant terminal sugar residues of glycoproteins and glycolipids on the surface of mammalian cells. The nervous tissue is the organ with the highest expression level of Sias. The 'sialylation' of glycoconjugates is performed via sialyltransferases, whereas 'desialylation' is done by sialidases or is a possible consequence of oxidative damage. Sialic acid residues on the neural cell surfaces inhibit complement and microglial activation, as well as phagocytosis of the underlying structures, via binding to (i) complement factor H (CFH) or (ii) sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectin (SIGLEC) receptors. In contrast, activated microglial cells show sialidase activity that desialylates both microglia and neurons, and further stimulates innate immunity via microglia and complement activation. The desialylation conveys neurons to become susceptible to phagocytosis, as well as triggers a microglial phagocytosis-associated oxidative burst and inflammation. Dysfunctions of the 'Sia-SIGLEC' and/or 'Sia-complement' axes often lead to neurological diseases. Thus, Sias on glycoconjugates of the intact glycocalyx and its desialylation are major regulators of neuroinflammation.

Polysialic acid and Siglec-E orchestrate negative feedback regulation of microglia activation


Thiesler H, Beimdiek J, Hildebrandt H

Cell mol Life Sci 2020


Polysialic acid (polySia) emerges as a novel regulator of microglia activity. We recently identified polysialylated proteins in the Golgi compartment of murine microglia that are released in response to inflammatory stimulation. Since exogenously added polySia is able to attenuate the inflammatory response, we proposed that the release of polysialylated proteins constitutes a mechanism for negative feedback regulation of microglia activation. Here, we demonstrate that translocation of polySia from the Golgi to the cell surface can be induced by calcium depletion of the Golgi compartment and that polysialylated proteins are continuously released for at least 24 h after the onset of inflammatory stimulation. The latter was unexpected, because polySia signals detected by immunocytochemistry are rapidly depleted. However, it indicates that the amount of released polySia is much higher than anticipated based on immunostaining. This may be crucial for microglial responses during traumatic brain injury (TBI), as we detected polySia signals in activated microglia around a stab wound in the adult mouse brain. In BV2 microglia, the putative polySia receptor Siglec-E is internalized during lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced activation and in response to polySia exposure, indicating interaction. Correspondingly, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated Siglec-E knockout prevents inhibition of pro inflammatory activation by exogenously added polySia and leads to a strong increase of the LPS response. A comparable increase of LPS-induced activation has been observed in microglia with abolished polySia synthesis. Together, these results indicate that the release of the microglia-intrinsic polySia pool, as implicated in TBI, inhibits the inflammatory response by acting as a trans-activating ligand of Siglec-E.

Reduced sialylation triggers homeostatic synapse and neuronal loss in middle-aged mice


Klaus C, Hansen JN, Ginolhac A, Gérard D, Gnanapragassam VS, Horstkorte R, Rossdam C, Buettner FFR, Sauter T, Sinkkonen L, Neumann H, Linnartz-Gerlach B

Neurobiol Aging 2020 


Sialic acid-binding Ig-like lectin (Siglec) receptors are linked to neurodegenerative processes, but the role of sialic acids in physiological aging is still not fully understood. We investigated the impact of reduced sialylation in the brain of mice heterozygous for the enzyme glucosamine-2-epimerase/N-acetylmannosamine kinase (GNE+/-) that is essential for sialic acid biosynthesis. We demonstrate that GNE+/- mice have hyposialylation in different brain regions, less synapses in the hippocampus and reduced microglial arborization already at 6 months followed by increased loss of neurons at 12 months. A transcriptomic analysis revealed no pro-inflammatory changes indicating an innate homeostatic immune process leading to the removal of synapses and neurons in GNE+/- mice during aging. Crossbreeding with complement C3-deficient mice rescued the earlier onset of neuronal and synaptic loss as well as the changes in microglial arborization. Thus, sialic acids of the glycocalyx contribute to brain homeostasis and act as a recognition system for the innate immune system in the brain.

Minimal B Cell Extrinsic IgG Glycan Modifications of Pro- and Anti-Inflammatory IgG Preparations in vivo


Schaffert A, Hanić M, Novokmet M, Zaytseva O, Krištić J, Lux A, Nitschke L, Peipp M, Pezer M, Hennig R, Rapp E, Lauc G, Nimmerjahn F

Front Immunol 2020 


Select residues in the biantennary sugar moiety attached to the fragment crystallizable of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies can modulate IgG effector functions. Thus, afucosylated IgG glycovariants have enhanced cytotoxic activity, whereas IgG glycovariants rich in terminal sialic acid residues can trigger anti-inflammatory effects. More recent evidence suggests that terminal α2,6 linked sialic acids can be attached to antibodies post IgG secretion. These findings raise concerns for the use of therapeutic antibodies as they may change their glycosylation status in the patient and hence affect their activity. To investigate to what extent B cell extrinsic sialylation processes modify therapeutic IgG preparations in vivo, we analyzed changes in human intravenous IgG (IVIg) sialylation upon injection in mice deficient in B cells or in mice lacking the sialyltransferase 1, which catalyzes the addition of α2,6 linked sialic acid residues. By performing a time course of IgG glycan analysis with HILIC-UPLC-FLR (plus MS) and xCGE-LIF our study suggests that therapeutic IgG glycosylation is stable upon injection in vivo. Only a very small fraction of IgG molecules acquired sialic acid structures predominantly in the Fab- but not the Fc-portion upon injection in vivo, suggesting that therapeutic antibody glycosylation will remain stable upon injection in vivo.