Glycosylation is one of the most significant and abundant posttranslational modifications in mammalian cells. It mediates a wide range of biofunctions, including cell adhesion, cell communication, immune cell trafficking, and protein stability. Also, aberrant glycosylation has been associated with various diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, inflammation, immune deficiencies, congenital disorders, and cancers. The alterations in the distributions of glycan and glycopeptide isomers are involved in the development and progression of several human diseases. However, the microheterogeneity of glycosylation brings a great challenge to glycomic and glycoproteomic analysis, including the characterization of isomers. Over several decades, different methods and approaches have been developed to facilitate the characterization of glycan and glycopeptide isomers. Mass spectrometry (MS) has been a powerful tool utilized for glycomic and glycoproteomic isomeric analysis due to its high sensitivity and rich structural information using different fragmentation techniques. However, a comprehensive characterization of glycan and glycopeptide isomers remains a challenge when utilizing MS alone. Therefore, various separation methods, including liquid chromatography, capillary electrophoresis, and ion mobility, were developed to resolve glycan and glycopeptide isomers before MS. These separation techniques were coupled to MS for a better identification and quantitation of glycan and glycopeptide isomers. Additionally, bioinformatic tools are essential for the automated processing of glycan and glycopeptide isomeric data to facilitate isomeric studies in biological cohorts. Here in this review, we discuss commonly employed MS-based techniques, separation hyphenated MS methods, and software, facilitating the separation, identification, and quantitation of glycan and glycopeptide isomers.
- MS-based isomeric characterization
- glycan isomers
- glycopeptide isomers