Highly Efficient Analysis of Glycoprotein Sialylation in Human Serum by Simultaneous Quantification of Glycosites and Site-Specific Glycoforms

Aberrant sialylation of glycoproteins is closely related to many malignant diseases, and analysis of sialylation has great potential to reveal the status of these diseases. However, in-depth analysis of sialylation is still challenging because of the high microheterogeneity of protein glycosylation, as well as the low abundance of sialylated glycopeptides (SGPs). Herein, an integrated strategy was fabricated for the detailed characterization of glycoprotein sialylation on the levels of glycosites and site-specific glycoforms by employing the SGP enrichment method. This strategy enabled the identification of up to 380 glycosites, as well as 414 intact glycopeptides corresponding to 383 site-specific glycoforms from only initial 6 μL serum samples, indicating the high sensitivity of the method for the detailed analysis of glycoprotein sialylation. This strategy was further employed to the differential analysis of glycoprotein sialylation between hepatocellular carcinoma patients and control samples, leading to the quantification of 344 glycosites and 405 site-specific glycoforms, simultaneously. Among these, 43 glycosites and 55 site-specific glycoforms were found to have significant change on the glycosite and site-specific glycoform levels, respectively. Interestingly, several glycoforms attached onto the same glycosite were found with different change tendencies. This strategy was demonstrated to be a powerful tool to reveal subtle differences of the macro- and microheterogeneity of glycoprotein sialylation.