Glycans modify mesenchymal stem cell differentiation to impact on the function of resulting osteoblasts

Katherine M. Wilson, Alistair M Jagger, Matthew Walker, Estere Seinkmane, James M. Fox, Roland Kröger, Paul Genever, Daniel Ungar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Glycans are inherently heterogeneous, yet glycosylation is essential in eukaryotes, and glycans show characteristic cell type-dependent distributions. By using an immortalized human mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC) line model, we show that both N- and O-glycan processing in the Golgi functionally modulates early steps of osteogenic differentiation. We found that inhibiting O-glycan processing in the Golgi prior to the start of osteogenesis inhibited the mineralization capacity of the formed osteoblasts 3 weeks later. In contrast, inhibition of N-glycan processing in MSCs altered differentiation to enhance the mineralization capacity of the osteoblasts. The effect of N-glycans on MSC differentiation was mediated by the phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway owing to reduced Akt phosphorylation. Interestingly, by inhibiting PI3K during the first 2 days of osteogenesis, we were able to phenocopy the effect of inhibiting N-glycan processing. Thus, glycan processing provides another layer of regulation that can modulate the functional outcome of differentiation. Glycan processing can thereby offer a novel set of targets for many therapeutically attractive processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjcs209452
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number4
Early online date11 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • Glycan processing
  • Hydroxyapatite
  • Kifunensine
  • Osteogenesis
  • PI3K signalling

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