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Glycobiology. 2006 Dec;16(12):1219-28. Epub 2006 Aug 29.

Characterization of a carbohydrate epitope defined by the monoclonal antibody H185: sialic acid O-acetylation on epithelial cell-surface mucins.

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Schepens Eye Research Institute and Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, 20 Staniford Street, Boston, MA 02114-2508, USA.


Sialic acids comprise a large family of derivatives of neuraminic acid containing methyl, acetyl, sulfate, and phosphate among other groups, which confer specific physicochemical properties (e.g., hydrophobicity and resistance to hydrolases) to the molecules carrying them. Several years ago, a monoclonal antibody, designated H185, was developed, which binds to cell membranes of human corneal, conjunctival, laryngeal, and vaginal epithelia and whose distribution is altered on the ocular surface of patients with keratinizing disease. Recent findings using immunoprecipitation and immunodepletion techniques have demonstrated that, in human corneal epithelial cells, the H185 antigen is carried by the membrane-associated mucin MUC16. In this study, we show that the H185 epitope on human corneal cells and in tear fluid is an O-acetylated sialic acid epitope that can be selectively hydrolyzed in an enzyme-concentration-dependent manner by sialidase from Arthrobacter ureafaciens and to a lesser extent by sialidases from Newcastle disease virus, Clostridium perfringens, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Binding of the H185 antibody was impaired by treatment of tear fluid with a recombinant 9-O-acetylesterase from influenza C virus. Two O-acetyl derivatives, Neu5,7Ac(2) and Neu5,9Ac(2), were identified in human tear fluid by fluorometric high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and electrospray mass spectrometry (MS). Immunoprecipitation of the H185 epitope from human corneal epithelial cells revealed that Neu5,9Ac(2) was the major derivative on the mucin isolate. These results indicate that exposed wet-surfaced epithelia are decorated with O-acetyl sialic acid derivatives on membrane-associated mucins and suggest that O-acetylation on cell surfaces may protect against pathogen infection by preventing degradation of membrane-associated mucins.

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