Exploring Leukocyte O-GlcNAcylation as a novel diagnostic tool for the earlier detection of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

15 Sep 2020

Context: Because current tests available for the diagnosis of diabetes have shortcomings, a novel screening method for the earlier and more efficient detection of type 2 diabetes would be a significant clinical advance. Objective: The hexosamine biosynthetic pathway usually acts as a fuel sensor, and its activation leads to O-linked -N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) modification of target proteins (O-GlcNAcylation) in a glucose-responsive manner. O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) and O-GlcNAcase (OGA) are responsible for O-GlcNAc addition and removal, respectively. Because higher hexosamine biosynthetic pathway flux is linked to insulin resistance/type 2 diabetes, we hypothesized that increased O-GlcNAcylation of leukocyte proteins can detect the onset of pre- and overt diabetes. Design, Setting and Patients: Seventy-four participants from Bellville and Stellenbosch (Western Cape, South Africa) were recruited and classified as normal, prediabetic, and diabetic individuals (American Diabetes Association criteria). Main Outcome Measures: Leukocytes isolated from study subjects were evaluated for O-GlcNAc, OGA, and O-GlcNAc transferase expression by flow cytometry and immunofluorescence microscopy. Results: Flow cytometric analysis of leukocyte subtypes revealed increased O-GlcNAcylation in gran- ulocytes vs. lymphocytes (P 0.001). Diabetic individuals displayed higher leukocyte O-GlcNAcylation (P 0.01), whereas granulocyte analysis showed an increase for prediabetic subjects (P 0.01). How- ever, OGA expression increased in leukocytes of diabetic subjects and is likely an adaptation to atten- uate higher O-GlcNAcylation observed (P 0.001). Conclusions: Together our data demonstrate that leukocyte (particularly granulocyte) O- GlcNAcylation could help detect pre- and overt diabetes and offer clinical value as unique markers for the earlier and more efficient detection of type 2 diabetes.