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GlycoSHIELD: a versatile pipeline to assess glycan impact on protein structures

By Michael Gecht, Sören von Bülow, Camille Penet, Gerhard Hummer, Cyril Hanus, Mateusz Sikora

Posted 04 Aug 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.08.04.455134

More than 75% of surface and secreted proteins are modified by covalent addition of complex sugars through N- and O-glycosylation. Unlike proteins, glycans do not typically adopt specific secondary structures and remain very mobile, influencing protein dynamics and interactions with other molecules. Glycan conformational freedom impairs complete structural elucidation of glycoproteins. Computer simulations may be used to model glycan structure and dynamics. However, such simulations typically require thousands of computing hours on specialized supercomputers, thus limiting routine use. Here, we describe a reductionist method that can be implemented on personal computers to graft ensembles of realistic glycan conformers onto static protein structures in a matter of minutes. Using this open-source pipeline, we reconstructed the full glycan cover of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein (S-protein) and a human GABAA receptor. Focusing on S-protein, we show that GlycoSHIELD recapitulates key features of extended simulations of the glycosylated protein, including epitope masking, and provides new mechanistic insights on N-glycan impact on protein structural dynamics.

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