Conformational alteration in glycan induces phospholipase Cβ1 activation and angiogenesis

Sheng Hung Wang, Jing Yan Cheng, Hsiu Hui Tsai, Tzu Chi Lo, Jung Tung Hung, Chun Cheng Lin, Chien Wei Lee, Yi Hsuan Ho, Huan Hsien Kuo, Alice L. Yu, John Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: In endothelial cells, phospholipase C (PLC) β1-activated Ca2+ is a crucial second messenger for the signaling pathways governing angiogenesis. PLCβ1 is inactivated by complexing with an intracellular protein called translin-associated factor X (TRAX). This study demonstrates specific interactions between Globo H ceramide (GHCer) and TRAX, which highlight a new angiogenic control through PLCβ1 activation. Methods: Globo-series glycosphingolipids (GSLs), including GHCer and stage-specific embryonic antigen-3 ceramide (SSEA3Cer), were analyzed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Biacore for their binding with TRAX. Angiogenic activities of GSLs in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were evaluated. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulation was used to study conformations of GSLs and their molecular interactions with TRAX. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) analysis of HUVECs by confocal microscopy was used to validate the release of PLCβ1 from TRAX. Furthermore, the in vivo angiogenic activity of extracellular vesicles (EVs) containing GHCer was confirmed using subcutaneous Matrigel plug assay in mice. Results: The results of ELISA and Biacore analysis showed a stable complex between recombinant TRAX and synthetic GHCer with Kd of 40.9 nM. In contrast, SSEA3Cer lacking a fucose residue of GHCer at the terminal showed ~ 1000-fold decrease in the binding affinity. These results were consistent with their angiogenic activities in HUVECs. The MD simulation indicated that TRAX interacted with the glycan moiety of GHCer at amino acid Q223, Q219, L142, S141, and E216. At equilibrium the stable complex maintained 4.6 ± 1.3 H-bonds. TRAX containing double mutations with Q223A and Q219A lost its ability to interact with GHCer in both MD simulation and Biacore assays. Removal of the terminal fucose from GHCer to become SSEA3Cer resulted in decreased H-bonding to 1.2 ± 1.0 by the MD simulation. Such specific H-bonding was due to the conformational alteration in the whole glycan which was affected by the presence or absence of the fucose moiety. In addition, ELISA, Biacore, and in-cell FRET assays confirmed the competition between GHCer and PLCβ1 for binding to TRAX. Furthermore, the Matrigel plug assay showed robust vessel formation in the plug containing tumor-secreted EVs or synthetic GHCer, but not in the plug with SSEA3Cer. The FRET analysis also indicated the disruption of colocalization of TRAX and PLCβ1 in cells by GHCer derived from EVs. Conclusions: Overall, the fucose residue in GHCer dictated the glycan conformation for its complexing with TRAX to release TRAX-sequestered PLCβ1, leading to Ca2+ mobilization in endothelial cells and enhancing angiogenesis in tumor microenvironments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
JournalJournal of Biomedical Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 12 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Angiogenesis
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Globo H ceramide
  • Glycosphingolipids
  • Phospholipase Cβ1
  • TRAX


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