A unique N-glycan on human transferrin in CSF: a possible biomarker for iNPH

Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Aug;33(8):1807-15. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.02.023. Epub 2011 Apr 3.


Idiopathic normal pressure hydrocephalus (iNPH) is an elderly dementia caused by abnormal metabolism in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The tap test is the current basis for confirming iNPH, but it shows very low sensitivity, indicating that many patients who might be cured by a shunt operation will be missed. On sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, we found two transferrin isoforms: one had a unique N-glycan (Tf-1) whereas the other had N-glycan similar to that of serum transferrin (Tf-2). Glycan analyses revealed that Tf-1 had branching (biantennary) asialo- and agalacto-complex type N-glycans (N-acetylglucosamine [GlcNAc]-terminated glycans), which carried bisecting β1,4-N-acetylglucosamine and core α1,6-fucose. To examine glycoform whether changes in iNPH, we introduced the Tf-2/Tf-1 ratio as a diagnostic index, which minimized blot-to-blot variations in measurement. The Tf-2/Tf-1 ratios of iNPH patients are significantly higher than those of controls (p = 0.0019) and Alzheimer's patients (p = 0.0010). This suggests that the Tf-2/Tf-1 ratio could distinguish iNPH from Alzheimer's disease, and possibly other dementias. In conclusion, glycoform analysis has diagnostic potential in neurological diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus, Normal Pressure / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Hydrocephalus, Normal Pressure / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysaccharides / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Protein Binding
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Transferrin / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Transferrin / chemistry


  • Biomarkers
  • Polysaccharides
  • Transferrin