Streptozotocin, an analog of N-acetylglucosamine, blocks the removal of O-GlcNAc from intracellular proteins

M. D. Roos, W. Xie, K. Su, J. A. Clark, X. Yang, Edward Chin, A. J. Paterson, J. E. Kudlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Streptozotocin (STZ), an analog of N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), is a specific toxin for the pancreatic β cell. We found that treatment of rats with STZ results in an early β-cell-specific increase in the level of intracellular protein modification by O-linked GlcNAc (O-GlcNAc). Using a model O-GlcNAc peptide based on the transcription factor Sp1, we show that treatment of cultured cells with STZ during peptide biosynthesis results in hyperglycosylation of the peptide as a result of the ability of STZ to specifically inhibit the activity of O-GlcNAc-selective N-acetyl-β-D- glucosaminidase. Although this inhibitory activity of STZ probably can occur in all cells, we found, using in situ hybridization, that β cells express very high levels of the mRNA encoding the enzyme responsible for cytoplasmic protein O-glycosylation, O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT). These findings suggest that the pancreatic β cell is particularly sensitive to the toxicity of STZ because it expresses such high levels of OGT. When STZ blocks O-GlcNAc removal from intracellular proteins, the cell with the most rapid on-rate for O-GlcNAc, the β cell, will experience the most rapid accumulation of this protein modification. Because we also show that the on-rate of O-GlcNAc is substrate driven in several cell types, we speculate that the β cell, with its high level of OGT, may also respond to elevations of blood sugar with increased protein modification by O-GlcNAc. Thus, this proposed mechanism of STZ toxicity on the β cell may result from an exaggeration of a heretofore unrecognized physiological response to glucose mediated through the high level of OGT in these cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-432
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the Association of American Physicians
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1998


  • Diabetes
  • Gene transcriptions
  • Glucotoxicity
  • Glycosylation
  • β cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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