Rapid assays for lectin toxicity and binding changes that reflect altered glycosylation in mammalian cells

Pamela Stanley, Subha Sundaram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Glycosylation engineering is used to generate glycoproteins, glycolipids, or proteoglycans with a more defined complement of glycans on their glycoconjugates. For example, a mammalian cell glycosylation mutant lacking a specific glycosyltransferase generates glycoproteins, and/or glycolipids, and/or proteoglycans with truncated glycans missing the sugar transferred by that glycosyltransferase, as well as those sugars that would be added subsequently. In some cases, an alternative glycosyltransferase may then use the truncated glycans as acceptors, thereby generating a new or different glycan subset in the mutant cell. Another type of glycosylation mutant arises from gain-of-function mutations that, for example, activate a silent glycosyltransferase gene. In this case, glycoconjugates will have glycans with additional sugar(s) that are more elaborate than the glycans of wild type cells. Mutations in other genes that affect glycosylation, such as nucleotide sugar synthases or transporters, will alter the glycan complement in more general ways that usually affect several types of glycoconjugates. There are now many strategies for generating a precise mutation in a glycosylation gene in a mammalian cell. Large-volume cultures of mammalian cells may also generate spontaneous mutants in glycosylation pathways. This article will focus on how to rapidly characterize mammalian cells with an altered glycosylation activity. The key reagents for the protocols described are plant lectins that bind mammalian glycans with varying avidities, depending on the specific structure of those glycans. Cells with altered glycosylation generally become resistant or hypersensitive to lectin toxicity, and have reduced or increased lectin or antibody binding. Here we describe rapid assays to compare the cytotoxicity of lectins in a lectin resistance test, and the binding of lectins or antibodies by flow cytometry in a glycan-binding assay. Based on these tests, glycosylation changes expressed by a cell can be revealed, and glycosylation mutants classified into phenotypic groups that may reflect a loss-of-function or gain-of-function mutation in a specific gene involved in glycan synthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-133
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent protocols in chemical biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • CHO cells
  • antibodies
  • engineer glycans
  • glycan binding
  • glycosylation mutants
  • lectins
  • mammalian cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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