Spindly is a nucleocytosolic O-fucosyltransferase in Dictyostelium and related proteins are widespread in protists and bacteria

O-GlcNAcylation is a prominent modification of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins in animals and plants, and is mediated by a single O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT). Spindly (Spy), a paralog of OGT first discovered in higher plants, has an ortholog in the apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, and both enzymes are now recognized as O-fucosyltransferases (OFTs). Here we investigate the evolution of spy-like genes and experimentally confirm OFT activity in the social amoeba Dictyostelium – a protist that is more related to fungi and metazoa. Immunofluorescence probing with the fucose-specific Aleuria aurantia lectin (AAL) and biochemical cell fractionation combined with western blotting suggested the occurrence of nucleocytoplasmic fucosylation. The absence of reactivity in mutants deleted in spy or gmd (unable to synthesize GDP-Fuc) suggested monofucosylation mediated by Spy. Genetic ablation of the modE locus, previously predicted to encode a GDP-fucose transporter, confirmed its necessity for fucosylation in the secretory pathway but not for the nucleocytoplasmic proteins. Affinity capture of these proteins combined with mass spectrometry confirmed monofucosylation of Ser and Thr residues of several known nucleocytoplasmic proteins. As in Toxoplasma, the Spy OFT was required for optimal proliferation of Dictyostelium under laboratory conditions. These findings support a new phylogenetic analysis of OGT and OFT evolution that indicates their occurrence in the last eukaryotic common ancestor but mostly complementary presence in its eukaryotic descendants with the notable exception that both occur in red algae and plants. Their generally exclusive expression, high degree of conservation and shared monoglycosylation targets suggest overlapping roles in physiological regulation.

Hanke Wel, Ana Maria Garcia, Elisabet Gas-Pascual, Macy M Willis, Hyun W Kim, Giulia Bandini, Maissa Mareme Gaye, Catherine E Costello, John Samuelson, Christopher M West. Glycobiology. 2022 Oct 17;cwac071. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwac071.