O-GlcNAc modification: why so intimately associated with phosphorylation?
1 Department of Internal Medicine University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
2 Department of Physiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
Cell Communication and Signaling 2011, 9:1 doi:10.1186/1478-811X-9-1Published: 11 January 2011
Post-translational modification of proteins at serine and threonine side chains by β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) mediated by the enzyme β-N-acetylglucosamine transferase has been emerging as a fundamental regulatory mechanism encompassing a wide range of proteins involved in cell division, metabolism, transcription and cell signaling. Furthermore, an extensive interplay between O-GlcNAc modification and serine/threonine phosphorylation in a variety of proteins has been reported to exist. However, our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms involved in O-GlcNAc modification and its interplay with serine/threonine phosphorylation in proteins is still elusive. Recent success in the mapping of O-GlcNAc modification sites in proteins as a result of technological advancement in mass spectrometry have revealed two important clues which may be inherently connected to the regulation of O-GlcNAc modification and its interplay with phosphorylation in proteins. First, almost all O-GlcNAc modified proteins are known phospho proteins. Second, the prevalence of tyrosine phosphorylation among O-GlcNAc modified proteins is exceptionally higher (~68%) than its normal occurrence (~2%) alone. We hypothesize that phosphorylation may be a requisite for O-GlcNAc modification and tyrosine phosphorylation plays a role in the interplay between O-GlcNAc modification and serine/threonine phosphorylation in proteins. In other words, the interplay between O-GlcNAc modification and phosphorylation is not limited to serine/threonine phosphorylation but also includes tyrosine phosphorylation. Our hypothesis provides an opportunity to understand the underlying mechanism involved in O-GlcNAc modification and its interplay with serine/threonine phosphorylation in proteins. Furthermore, implication of our hypothesis extends to tyrosine kinase signaling.