Targeted mutation in β1,4-galactosyltransferase leads to pituitary insufficiency and neonatal lethality

Qingxian Lu, Paul Hasty, Barry D. Shur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Despite much attention, the function of oligosaccharide chains on glycoproteins and glycolipids remains largely unknown. Our understanding of oligosaccharide function in vivo has been limited to the use of reagents and targeted mutations that eliminate entire classes of oligosaccharide chains. However, most biological functions for oligosaccharides have been attributed to specific terminal sequences on these glycoside chains; yet, there have been few studies that examine the consequences of modifying terminal oligosaccharide structures in vivo. To address this issue, mice were created bearing a targeted mutation in β1,4-galactosyltransferase (GalTase), an enzyme responsible for elaboration of many of the proposed biologically active carbohydrate epitopes. Most GalTase-null mice died within the first few weeks after birth and were characterized by stunted growth, thin skin, sparse hair, and dehydration. In addition, spermatogenesis was delayed, the lungs were poorly developed, and the adrenal cortices were poorly stratified. The few surviving adults had puffy skin (myxedema) and difficulty delivering pups at birth (dystocia) and failed to lactate (agalactosis). All of these defects are consistent with endocrine insufficiency, which was confirmed by markedly decreased levels of serum thyroxine. The polyglandular nature of the endocrine insufficiency is indicative of a failure of the anterior pituitary gland to stimulate the target endocrine organs. Previous in vitro studies have suggested that incomplete glycosylation of anterior pituitary hormones leads to the creation of hormone antagonists, which down-regulate subsequent endocrine function, producing polyglandular endocrine insufficiency. In GalTase-null mice, the anterior pituitary acquired a normal secretory phenotype during neonatal development indicative of normal glycoprotein hormone synthesis and secretion. However, as expected, the gland was devoid of GalTase activity. These results support a requirement for terminal oligosaccharide sequences for anterior pituitary hormone function. The fact that ~ 10% of the GalTase-null mice survive the neonatal period indicates the presence of a previously unrecognized compensatory pathway for glycoprotein hormone glycosylation and/or action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-267
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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