Most cell membrane proteins are known or predicted to be glycosylated in eukaryotic organisms, where surface glycans are essential in many biological processes including cell development and differentiation. Nonetheless, the glycosylation on cell membranes remains not well characterized because of the lack of sensitive analytical methods. This study introduces a technique for the rapid profiling and quantitation of N- and O-glycans on cell membranes using membrane enrichment and nanoflow liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry of native structures. Using this new method, the glycome analysis of cell membranes isolated from human embryonic stem cells and somatic cell lines was performed. Human embryonic stem cells were found to have high levels of high mannose glycans, which contrasts with IMR-90 fibroblasts and a human normal breast cell line, where complex glycans are by far the most abundant and high mannose glycans are minor components. O-Glycosylation affects relatively minor components of cell surfaces. To verify the quantitation and localization of glycans on the human embryonic stem cell membranes, flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry were performed. Proteomics analyses were also performed and confirmed enrichment of plasma membrane proteins with some contamination from endoplasmic reticulum and other membranes. These findings suggest that high mannose glycans are the major component of cell surface glycosylation with even terminal glucoses. High mannose glycans are not commonly presented on the surfaces of mammalian cells or in serum yet may play important roles in stem cell biology. The results also mean that distinguishing stem cells from other mammalian cells may be facilitated by the major difference in the glycosylation of the cell membrane. The deep structural analysis enabled by this new method will enable future mechanistic studies on the biological significance of high mannose glycans on stem cell membranes and provide a general tool to examine cell surface glycosylation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas