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Clin Chim Acta. 1996 Oct 15;254(1):23-40.

Comparison of carbohydrate structures of serum alpha-fetoprotein by sequential glycosidase digestion and lectin affinity electrophoresis.

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Osaka Research Laboratories, Wako Pure Chemical Industries Ltd., Hyoga, Japan.


Serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is a glycoprotein of which the sugar chain is considered to show structural changes with malignancies. Microheterogeneity of the serum AFP carbohydrate structure was studied in samples from 35 patients with benign and malignant diseases. Sera were digested directly, extensively, and sequentially with sialidase. beta-galactosidase and beta-N-acetylhexosaminidase. Before and after digestion, sera were examined by means of lectin affinity electrophoresis using eight lectins. Relationships between AFP carbohydrate structures and liver diseases were elucidated by the lectin-reactive profiles and the effect of glycosidase digestion. More than 94% of the AFP carbohydrate structures found in patients with benign and malignant liver diseases were biantennary complex-type oligosaccharides. Changes in the AFP carbohydrate structures at the early stage of hepatocellular carcinoma revealed the addition of alpha 1-->6 fucose to the reducing terminal N-acetylglucosamine and monosialylated AFPs. In both advanced hepatocellular carcinoma and AFP producing extrahepatic malignancies, AFP carbohydrate structures were characterized as the further addition of beta 1-->4 N-acetylglucosamine and heterogeneity in the galactose and N-acetylglucosamine residues. Sequential glycosidase digestion and lectin affinity electrophoresis is useful for analysing the carbohydrate structures of serum glycoprotein.

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