Background: Genetic alteration of muscle cell glycosylation in muscular dystrophy models has ameliorated disease.
Results: A high throughput screen identified a small molecule, lobeline, which altered muscle cell glycosylation and improved laminin binding.
Conclusion: Lobeline increased abundance of sarcolemmal glycoproteins and increased laminin binding in an N-glycan-dependent manner.
Significance: A novel approach revealed an unexpected role for N-glycans in muscle cell function.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is an X-linked disorder characterized by loss of dystrophin, a cytoskeletal protein that connects the actin cytoskeleton in skeletal muscle cells to extracellular matrix. Dystrophin binds to the cytoplasmic domain of the transmembrane glycoprotein β-dystroglycan (β-DG), which associates with cell surface α-dystroglycan (α-DG) that binds laminin in the extracellular matrix. β-DG can also associate with utrophin, and this differential association correlates with specific glycosylation changes on α-DG. Genetic modification of α-DG glycosylation can promote utrophin binding and rescue dystrophic phenotypes in mouse dystrophy models. We used high throughput screening with the plant lectin Wisteria floribunda agglutinin (WFA) to identify compounds that altered muscle cell surface glycosylation, with the goal of finding compounds that increase abundance of α-DG and associated sarcolemmal glycoproteins, increase utrophin usage, and increase laminin binding. We identified one compound, lobeline, from the Prestwick library of Food and Drug Administration-approved compounds that fulfilled these criteria, increasing WFA binding to C2C12 cells and to primary muscle cells from wild type and mdx mice. WFA binding and enhancement by lobeline required complex N-glycans but not O-mannose glycans that bind laminin. However, inhibiting complex N-glycan processing reduced laminin binding to muscle cell glycoproteins, although O-mannosylation was intact. Glycan analysis demonstrated a general increase in N-glycans on lobeline-treated cells rather than specific alterations in cell surface glycosylation, consistent with increased abundance of multiple sarcolemmal glycoproteins. This demonstrates the feasibility of high throughput screening with plant lectins to identify compounds that alter muscle cell glycosylation and identifies a novel role for N-glycans in regulating muscle cell function.