Chemical Modulation of Protein O-GlcNAcylation via OGT Inhibition Promotes Human Neural Cell Differentiation

Lissette M. Andres, Ian W. Blong, Angela C. Evans, Neil G. Rumachik, Teppei Yamaguchi, Nam D. Pham, Pamela Thompson, Jennifer J. Kohler, Carolyn R. Bertozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The enzymes that determine protein O-GlcNAcylation, O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) and O-GlcNAcase (OGA), act on key transcriptional and epigenetic regulators, and both are abundantly expressed in the brain. However, little is known about how alterations in O-GlcNAc cycling affect human embryonic stem cell (hESC) neural differentiation. Here, we studied the effects of perturbing O-GlcNAcylation during neural induction of hESCs using the metabolic inhibitor of OGT, peracetylated 5-thio-N-acetylglucosamine (Ac4-5SGlcNAc). Treatment of hESCs with Ac4-5SGlcNAc during induction limited protein O-GlcNAcylation and also caused a dramatic decrease in global levels of UDP-GlcNAc. Concomitantly, a subpopulation of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) acquired an immature neuronal morphology and expressed early neuronal markers such as β-III tubulin (TUJ1) and microtubule associated protein 2 (MAP2), phenotypes that took longer to manifest in the absence of OGT inhibition. These data suggest that chemical inhibition of OGT and perturbation of protein O-GlcNAcylation accelerate the differentiation of hESCs along the neuronal lineage, thus providing further insight into the dynamic molecular mechanisms involved in neuronal development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2030-2039
Number of pages10
JournalACS chemical biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 18 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine


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