To identify factors required for the synthesis of complex glycans, we have isolated Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell mutants resistant to plant lectins. We previously identified Lec19 CHO cells as resistant to the Gal-binding lectins ricin, abrin, and modeccin and hypersensitive to the toxicity of other lectins that bind Gal, including L-PHA and E-PHA. Here we show that Lec19 cell extracts have a decreased ability to transfer Gal to simple sugar, oligosaccharide, and glycopeptide acceptors, particularly to biantennary, GlcNAc-terminated acceptors. RicinII-agarose lectin affinity chromatography, oligo-mapping, and monosaccharide analyses provided evidence that Lec19 N-glycans have fewer Gal residues than CHO N-glycans. MALDI-TOF mass spectra of N-glycans released from Lec19 cell glycoproteins by peptide N-glycanase F revealed species with the predicted masses of neutral N-glycans with few Gal residues. Such truncated species are essentially absent from CHO cell glycoproteins. However, the complement of fully galactosylated or sialylated bi-, tri-, and tetra-antennary N-glycans was largely equivalent in Lec19 and CHO cells. In addition, the coding region sequences of the β4Gal-1, -T-2, -T-3, -T-4, -T-5, and -T-6 genes were identical in CHO and Lec19 cells. However, Northern analyses revealed an ∼2-4-fold reduction in the level of transcripts of all six β4GalT genes in Lec19 cells. Since the recessive Lec19 phenotype is the result of a loss-of-function mutation, the combined data predict the existence of a trans-acting regulator of the steady-state level of transcripts that derive from these six mammalian β4GalT genes.
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