In the eukaryotic cell, protein glycosylation takes place in the crowded environment of the endoplasmatic reticulum. With the purpose of elucidating the impact of high concentration on the interactions of glycoproteins, we have conducted a series of small-angle x-ray scattering experiments on the heavily glycosylated enzyme Peniophora lycii phytase (Phy) and its deglycosylated counterpart (dgPhy). The small-angle x-ray scattering data were analyzed using an individual numerical form factor for each of the two glycoforms combined with two structure factors, a hard sphere and a screened coulomb potential structure factor, respectively, as determined by ab initio analysis. Based on this data analysis, three main conclusions could be drawn. First, at comparable protein concentrations (mg/ml), the relative excluded volume of Phy was 75% higher than that of dgPhy, showing that the glycans significantly increase excluded-volume interactions. Second, the relative excluded volume of dgPhy increased with concentration, as expected; however, the opposite effect was observed for Phy, where the relative excluded volume decreased in response to increasing protein concentration. Third, a clear difference in the effect of salinity on the excluded-volume interactions was observed between the two glycol forms. Although the relative excluded volume of dgPhy decreased with increasing ionic strength, the relative excluded volume of Phy was basically insensitive to increased salinity. We suggest that protrusion forces from the glycans contribute to steric stabilization of the protein, and that glycosylation helps to sustain repulsive electrostatic interactions under crowded conditions. In combination, this aids in stabilizing high concentrations of glycosylated proteins.
Høiberg-Nielsen, R., Westh, P., Skov, L. K., & Arleth, L. (2009). Interrelationship of Steric Stabilization and Self-Crowding of a Glycosylated Protein. Biophysical Journal, 97(5), 1445-1453. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2009.05.045