Attachment of sugars to nitrogen and oxygen in peptides is ubiquitous in biology, but glycosylation of sulfur atoms has only been recently described. Here, we characterize two S-glycosyltransferases SunS and ThuS that selectively glycosylate one of five Cys residues in their substrate peptides; substitution of this Cys with Ser results in a strong decrease in glycosylation activity. Crystal structures of SunS and ThuS in complex with UDP-glucose or a derivative reveal an unusual architecture in which a glycosyltransferase type A (GTA) fold is decorated with additional domains to support homodimerization. Dimer formation creates an extended cavity for the substrate peptide, drawing functional analogy with O-glycosyltransferases involved in cell wall biosynthesis. This extended cavity contains a sharp bend that may explain the site selectivity of the glycosylation because the target Cys is in a Gly-rich stretch that can accommodate the bend. These studies establish a molecular framework for understanding the unusual S-glycosyltransferases.
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