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Characterization of the rat alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase: evidence for two independent genes encoding glycosyltransferases that synthesize Galalpha(1,3)Gal by two separate glycosylation pathways.

Taylor SG, McKenzie IF, Sandrin MS

  • Journal Glycobiology

  • Published 17 Dec 2002

  • Volume 13

  • ISSUE 5

  • Pagination 327-37

  • DOI 10.1093/glycob/cwg030


The important xenoepitope Galalpha(1,3)Gal was thought to be exclusively synthesized by a single alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase. However, the cloning of the distant family member rat iGb3 synthase, which is also capable of synthesizing Galalpha(1,3)Gal as the glycolipid structure iGb3, challenges the notion that alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase is the sole Galalpha(1,3)Gal-synthesizing enzyme. We describe the cloning of the rat homolog of alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase, showing that indeed the rat expresses two distinct alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferases, alpha(1,3)GT and iGb3 synthase. Rat alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase shows a high amino acid sequence identity with the alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase of mouse (90%), pig (76%), and ox (75%), in contrast to the low amino acid sequence identity (42%) with iGb3 synthase. The rat alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase is expressed in heart, brain, spleen, kidney, and liver and has a similar intron/exon structure to the mouse alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase. Transfection studies show that in contrast to the iGb3 synthase, rat alpha(1,3)galactosyltransferase can synthesize Galalpha(1,3)Gal on glycoproteins but cannot synthesize the glycolipid iGb3, defining two separate glycosylation pathways for the synthesis of Galalpha(1,3)Gal. Furthermore iGb3 synthase was found to be distinct from alpha(1,3)GT with its ability to synthesize poly-alpha-Gal glycolipid structures.