N-glycosylation is a post-translational modification that plays a role in the trafficking and/or function of some membrane proteins. We have shown previously that N-glycosylation affected the function of some Kv1 voltage-gated potassium (K+) channels [Watanabe, Wang, Sutachan, Zhu, Recio-Pinto and Thornhill (2003) J. Physiol. (Cambridge, U.K.) 550, 51–66]. Kv1 channel S1–S2 linkers vary in length but their N-glycosylation sites are at similar relative positions from the S1 or S2 membrane domains. In the present study, by a scanning mutagenesis approach, we determined the allowed N-glycosylation sites on the Kv1.2 S1–S2 linker, which has 39 amino acids, by engineering N-glycosylation sites and assaying for glycosylation, using their sensitivity to glycosidases. The middle section of the linker (54% of linker) was glycosylated at every position, whereas both end sections (46% of linker) near the S1 or S2 membrane domains were not. These findings suggested that the middle section of the S1–S2 linker was accessible to the endoplasmic reticulum glycotransferase at every position and was in the extracellular aqueous phase, and presumably in a flexible conformation. We speculate that the S1–S2 linker is mostly a coiled-loop structure and that the strict relative position of native glycosylation sites on these linkers may be involved in the mechanism underlying the functional effects of glycosylation on some Kv1 K+ channels. The S3–S4 linker, with 16 amino acids and no N-glycosylation site, was not glycosylated when an N-glycosylation site was added. However, an extended linker, with an added N-linked site, was glycosylated, which suggested that the native linker was not glycosylated due to its short length. Thus other ion channels or membrane proteins may also have a high glycosylation potential on a linker but yet have similarly positioned native N-glycosylation sites among isoforms. This may imply that the native position of the N-glycosylation site may be important if the carbohydrate tree plays a role in the folding, stability, trafficking and/or function of the protein.
Abbreviations used: CHO, Chinese-hamster ovary; endo H, endoglycosidase H; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; PNGase F, peptide N-glycosidase F.