Metab Eng. 2021 Jun 23:S1096-7176(21)00100-2. doi: 10.1016/j.ymben.2021.06.001. Online ahead of print.
Filamentous fungi secrete protein with a very high efficiency, and this potential can be exploited advantageously to produce therapeutic proteins at low costs. A significant barrier to this goal is posed by the fact that fungal N-glycosylation varies substantially from that of humans. Inappropriate N-glycosylation of therapeutics results in reduced product quality, including poor efficacy, decreased serum half-life, and undesirable immune reactions. One solution to this problem is to reprogram the glycosylation pathway of filamentous fungi to decorate proteins with glycans that match, or can be remodeled into, those that are accepted by humans. In yeast, deletion of ALG3 leads to the accumulation of Man5GlcNAc2 glycan structures that can act as a precursor for remodeling. However, in Aspergilli, deletion of the ALG3 homolog algC leads to an N-glycan pool where the majority of the structures contain more hexose residues than the Man3-5GlcNAc2 species that can serve as substrates for humanized glycan structures. Hence, additional strain optimization is required. In this report, we have used gene deletions in combination with enzymatic and chemical glycan treatments to investigate N-glycosylation in the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans. In vitro analyses showed that only some of the N-glycan structures produced by a mutant A. nidulans strain, which is devoid of any of the known ER mannose transferases, can be trimmed into desirable Man3GlcNAc2 glycan structures, as substantial amounts of glycan structures appear to be capped by glucose residues. In agreement with this view, deletion of the ALG6 homolog algF, which encodes the putative α-1,3- glucosyltransferase that adds the first glucose residue to the growing ER glycan structure, dramatically reduces the amounts of Hex6-7HexNAc2 structures. Similarly, these structures are also sensitive to overexpression of the genes encoding the heterodimeric α-glucosidase II complex. Without the glucose caps, a new set of large N-glycan structures was formed. Formation of this set is mostly, perhaps entirely, due to mannosylation, as overexpression of the gene encoding mannosidase activity led to their elimination. Based on our new insights into the N-glycan processing in A. nidulans, an A. nidulans mutant strain was constructed in which more than 70% of the glycoforms appear to be Man3-5GlcNAc2 species, which may serve as precursors for further engineering in order to create more complex human-like N-glycan structures.