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Glycobiology. 2011 Sep;21(9):1125-30. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwq209. Epub 2010 Dec 15.

The binding specificity of the marker antibodies Tra-1-60 and Tra-1-81 reveals a novel pluripotency-associated type 1 lactosamine epitope.

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Finnish Red Cross Blood Service, Kivihaantie 7, 00310 Helsinki, Finland.


The expression of the epitopes recognized by the monoclonal antibodies Tra-1-60 and Tra-1-81 is routinely used to assess the pluripotency status of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Although it is known that the epitopes recognized by Tra-1-60 and Tra-1-81 are carbohydrates, the exact molecular identity of these epitopes has been unclear. Glycan array analysis with more than 500 oligosaccharide structures revealed specific binding of Tra-1-60 and Tra-1-81 to two molecules containing terminal type 1 lactosamine: Galβ1-3GlcNAcβ1-3Galβ1-4GlcNAc and Galβ1-3GlcNAcβ1-3Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-6(Galβ1-3GlcNAcβ1-3)Galβ1-4Glc. The type 1 disaccharide in itself was not sufficient for binding, indicating that the complete epitope requires an extended tetrasaccharide structure where the type 1 disaccharide is β1,3-linked to type 2 lactosamine. Our mass spectrometric analysis complemented with glycosidase digestions of hESC O-glycans indicated the presence of the extended tetrasaccharide epitope on an O-glycan with the likely structure Galβ1-3GlcNAcβ1-3Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-6(Galβ1-3)GalNAc. Thus, the present data indicate that the pluripotency marker antibodies Tra-1-60 and Tra-1-81 recognize the minimal epitope Galβ1-3GlcNAcβ1-3Galβ1-4GlcNAc, which is present in hESCs as a part of a mucin-type O-glycan structure. The exact molecular identity of Tra-1-60 and Tra-1-81 is important for the development of improved tools to characterize the pluripotent phenotype.

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