The occurrence of multiple glycosylation sites on a protein, together with the number of glycan structures which could potentially be associated with each site (microheterogeneity) often leads to a large number of structural combinations. These structural variations increase with the molecular size of a protein, thus contributing to the complexity of glycosylation patterns. Resolving such fine structural differences has been instrumentally difficult. The degree of glycoprotein microheterogeneity has been analytically challenging in the identification of unique glycan structures that can be crucial to a distinct biological function. Despite the wealth of information provided by the most powerful mass spectrometric (MS) and tandem MS techniques, they are not able to readily identify isomeric structures. Although various separation methods provide alternatives for the analysis of glycan pools containing isomeric structures, capillary electrophoresis (CE) is often the method of choice for resolving closely related glycan structures because of its unmatched separation efficiency. It is thus natural to consider combining CE with the MS- based technologies. This review describes the utility of different CE approaches in the structural characterization of glycoproteins, and discusses the feasibility of their interface to mass spectrometry.
- Capillary electrophoresis