Mucin-type O-glycosylation in Fasciola hepatica: characterisation of carcinoma-associated Tn and sialyl-Tn antigens and evaluation of UDP-GalNAc:polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase activity

Int J Parasitol. 2003 Jan;33(1):47-56. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7519(02)00231-x.


Simple mucin-type cancer-associated O-glycan structures, such as the Tn antigen (GalNAc-O-Ser/Thr), are expressed by certain helminth parasites. These antigens are involved in several types of receptor-ligand interactions, and they are potential targets for immunotherapy. The aim of this work was to study the initiation pathway of mucin-type O-glycosylation in Fasciola hepatica, performing a biochemical and immunohistochemical characterisation of Tn and sialyl-Tn antigens, and evaluating the ppGaNTase activity, which catalyses the first step in O-glycan biosynthesis. Using ELISA, both Tn and sialyl-Tn antigens were detected predominantly in the somatic and deoxycholate extracts. Immunofluorescence analysis revealed that Tn antigen is preferentially expressed in testis, while sialyl-Tn glycoproteins were more widely distributed, being present in parenchymal cells, basal membrane of the tegument, and apical surface of epithelial cells lining the caeca. On the basis of their electrophoretic mobility, Tn glycoproteins were resolved as six components of 10, 37, 76, 125, 170 and 205 kDa, and sialyl-Tn components showed an apparent molecular mass of 28 and 32 kDa, and two broad bands of 90-110 and 170-190 kDa. The observation that only the 76 kDa Tn-glycoprotein remained in the 0.6 N perchloric acid-soluble fraction suggests that it could be a good candidate for mucin characterisation in this parasite. The ppGaNTase activity showed its maximal activity at pH 7-7.5 and 37 degrees C, showing that Mn(2+) was the best divalent cation activator. Using a panel of nine synthetic peptides as acceptor substrates, we found that F. hepatica ppGaNTase was able to glycosylate both threonines and serines, the best substrates being the peptides derived from the tandem repeat region of human mucins (MUC2 and MUC6), and from Trypanosoma cruzi and Trypanosoma brucei glycoproteins. The results reported here constitute the first evidence on O-glycosylation pathways in F. hepatica, and may help to identify new biological characteristics of this parasite as well as of the host-parasite relationship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antigens, Helminth / metabolism*
  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate / genetics
  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate / immunology
  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate / metabolism*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Fasciola hepatica / enzymology
  • Fasciola hepatica / immunology*
  • Glycosylation
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Testis / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Helminth
  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate
  • Tn antigen
  • sialosyl-Tn antigen
  • N-Acetylgalactosaminyltransferases
  • polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase