Cloning and expression of human sialic acid pathway genes to generate CMP-sialic acids in insect cells
The addition of sialic acid residues to glycoproteins can affect important protein properties including biological activity and in vivo circulatory half-life. For sialylation to occur, the donor sugar nucleotide cytidine monophospho-sialic acid (CMP-SA) must be generated and enzymatically transferred to an acceptor oligosaccharide. However, examination of insect cells grown in serum-free medium revealed negligible native levels of the most common sialic acid nucleotide, CMP-N-acetylneuraminic acid (CMP-Neu5Ac). To increase substrate levels, the enzymes of the metabolic pathway for CMP-SA synthesis have been engineered into insect cells using the baculovirus expression system. In this study, a human CMP-sialic acid synthase cDNA was identified and found to encode a protein with 94% identity to the murine homologue. The human CMP-sialic acid synthase (Cmp-Sas) is ubiquitously expressed in human cells from multiple tissues. When expressed in insect cells using the baculovirus vector, the encoded protein is functional and localizes to the nucleus as in mammalian cells. In addition, co-expression of Cmp-Sas with the recently cloned sialic acid phosphate synthase with N-acetylmannosamine feeding yields intracellular CMP-Neu5Ac levels 30 times higher than those observed in unsupplemented CHO cells. The absence of any one of these three components abolishes CMP-Neu5Ac production in vivo. However, when N-acetylmannosamine feeding is omitted, the sugar nucleotide form of deaminated Neu5Ac, CMP-2-keto-3-deoxy-D-glycero-D-galacto-nononic acid (CMP-KDN), is produced instead, indicating that alternative sialic acid glycoforms may eventually be possible in insect cells. The human CMP-SAS enzyme is also capable of CMP-N-glycolylneuraminic acid (CMP-Neu5Gc) synthesis when provided with the proper substrate. Engineering the CMP-SA metabolic pathway may be beneficial in various cell lines in which CMP-Neu5Ac production limits sialylation of glycoproteins or other glycans.
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