N-Glycosylation engineering of plants for the biosynthesis of glycoproteins with bisected and branched complex N-glycans

Alexandra Castilho, Pia Gattinger, Josephine Grass, Jakub Jez, Martin Pabst, Friedrich Altmann, Markus Gorfer, Richard Strasser, Herta Steinkellner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


Glycoengineering is increasingly being recognized as a powerful tool to generate recombinant glycoproteins with a customized N-glycosylation pattern. Here, we demonstrate the modulation of the plant glycosylation pathway toward the formation of human-type bisected and branched complex N-glycans. Glycoengineered Nicotiana benthamiana lacking plant-specific N-glycosylation (i.e. 1,2-xylose and core 1,3-fucose) was used to transiently express human erythropoietin (hEPO) and human transferrin (hTF) together with modified versions of human 1,4-mannosyl-1,4-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase (GnTIII), 1,3-mannosyl-1,4-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase (GnTIV) and 1,6-mannosyl-1,6-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase (GnTV). hEPO was expressed as a fusion to the IgG-Fc domain (EPO-Fc) and purified via protein A affinity chromatography. Recombinant hTF was isolated from the intracellular fluid of infiltrated plant leaves. Mass spectrometry-based N-glycan analysis of hEPO and hTF revealed the quantitative formation of bisected (GnGnbi) and tri- as well as tetraantennary complex N-glycans (Gn[GnGn], [GnGn]Gn and [GnGn][GnGn]). Co-expression of GnTIII together with GnTIV and GnTV resulted in the efficient generation of bisected tetraantennary complex N-glycans. Our results show the generation of recombinant proteins with human-type N-glycosylation at great uniformity. The strategy described here provides a robust and straightforward method for producing mammalian-type N-linked glycans of defined structures on recombinant glycoproteins, which can advance glycoprotein research and accelerate the development of protein-based therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-823
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • erythropoietin
  • GnTIII
  • GnTIV
  • GnTV
  • N-glycosylation
  • Nicotiana benthamiana
  • transferrin


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