National Research Council of Canada. Human Health Therapeutics
O-Acetylation of sialic acid in protein N-glycans is an important modification and can occur at either 4-, 7-, 8- or 9-position in various combinations. This modification is usually labile under alkaline reaction conditions. Consequently, a permethylation-based analytical method, which has been widely used in glycomics studies, is not suitable for profiling O-acetylation of sialic acids due to the harsh reaction conditions. Alternatively, methylamidation can be used for N-glycan analysis without affecting the base-labile modification of sialic acid. In this report, we applied both permethylation and methylamidation approaches to the analysis of O-acetylation in sialic acids. It has been demonstrated that methylamidation not only stabilizes sialic acids during MALDI processing but also allow for characterization of their O-acetylation pattern. In addition, LC-MS/MS experiments were carried out to distinguish between the O-acetylated glycans with potential isomeric structures. The repeatability of methylamidation was examined to evaluate the applicability of the approach to profiling of O-acetylation in sialic acids. In conclusion, the combination of methylamidation and permethylation methodology is a powerful MALDI-TOF MS-based tool for profiling O-acetylation in sialic acids applicable to screening of N-glycans.