Distinct contributions of β4GalNAcTA and β4GalNAcTB to Drosophila glycosphingolipid biosynthesis

Anita Stolz, Nicola Haines, Andreas Pich, Kenneth D. Irvine, Cornelis H. Hokke, André M. Deelder, Rita Gerardy-Schahn, Manfred Wuhrer, Hans Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Drosophila melanogaster has two β4-N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferases, β4GalNAcTA and β4GalNAcTB, that are able to catalyse the formation of lacdiNAc (GalNAcβ,4GlcNAc). LacdiNAc is found as a structural element of Drosophila glycosphingolipids (GSLs) suggesting that β4GalNAcTs contribute to the generation of GSL structures in vivo. Mutations in Egghead and Brainaic, enzymes that generate the β4GalNAcT trisaccharide acceptor structure GlcNAcβ,3Manβ,4GlcβCer, are lethal. In contrast, flies doubly mutant for the β4GalNAcTs are viable and fertile. Here, we describe the structural analysis of the GSLs in β4GalNAcT mutants and find that in double mutant flies no lacdiNAc structure is generated and the trisaccharide GlcNAcβ,3Manβ,4GlcβCer accumulates. We also find that phosphoethanolamine transfer to GlcNAc in the trisaccharide does not occur, demonstrating that this step is dependent on prior or simultaneous transfer of GalNAc. By comparing GSL structures generated in the β4GalNAcT single mutants we show that β4GalNAcTB is the major enzyme for the overall GSL biosynthesis in adult flies. In β4GalNAcTA mutants, composition of GSL structures is indistinguishable from wild-type animals. However, in β4GalNAcTB mutants precursor structures are accumulating in different steps of GSL biosynthesis, without the complete loss of lacdiNAc, indicating that β4GalNAcTA plays a minor role in generating GSL structures. Together our results demonstrate that both β4GalNAcTs are able to generate lacdiNAc structures in Drosophila GSL, although with different contributions in vivo, and that the trisaccharide GlcNAcβ,3Manβ,4GlcβCer is sufficient to avoid the major phenotypic consequences associated with the GSL biosynthetic defects in Brainiac or Egghead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-175
Number of pages9
JournalGlycoconjugate Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


  • Brainiac
  • Drosophila glycosphingolipid
  • Egghead
  • Glycosyltransferase
  • LacdiNAc

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