Precise structural analysis of O-linked oligosaccharides in human serum

Glycobiology. 2014 Jun;24(6):542-53. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwu022. Epub 2014 Mar 24.


O-glycans are suitable targets as novel and useful tumor markers. The structures of O-glycans in human sera from four healthy controls were precisely analyzed to obtain the reference O-glycan database. O-glycans were prepared from sera by hydrazine treatment followed by fluorescent labeling with aminopyridine and identified using two-dimensional mapping, enzymatic digestion and mass spectrometry (MS) together with methanolysis and the use of newly synthesized sulfated oligosaccharides as standards. O-glycans, present at more than 0.01% of the total O-glycans, were analyzed, and 18 kinds of acidic and 2 kinds of neutral glycans were identified. NeuAcα2-3Galβ1-3N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) (61-64%), NeuAcα2-3Galβ1-3(NeuAcα2-6)GalNAc (15-26%) and Galβ1-3GalNAc (6-14%) were major components while other sialylated glycans, Galβ1-3(NeuAcα2-6)GalNAc, Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-6(NeuAcα2-3Galβ1-3)GalNAc and NeuAcα2-3Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-6(NeuAcα2-3Galβ1-3)GalNAc were relatively minor components, accounting for ∼1-2%. Very minor glycans accounting for ∼0.01-0.1% of the total include (i) the neutral glycan, Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-6(Galβ1-3)GalNAc, (ii) sialylated glycans, having sialyl Tn antigen, agalacto and trisialylated structures, (iii) fucosylated glycans forming blood type H antigen, blood type A antigen, blood type B antigen, Lewis X antigen and sialyl Lewis X antigen and (iv) sulfated glycans, having 6-sulfo and 3'-sulfo structures. Two kinds of clinically applied tumor markers namely sialyl Tn antigen and sialyl Lewis X antigen in healthy controls sera were revealed to be present at ∼0.1-0.2% of the total. However, other markers such as CA19-9 and DU-PAN-2 were not found, suggesting the relative amounts of these glycans to be <0.01%. These detailed O-glycan profiles will help to find novel carbohydrate tumor markers.

Keywords: O-glycan; mass spectrometry; serum; two-dimensional mapping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Gangliosides
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oligosaccharides / blood*
  • Polysaccharides / blood*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Gangliosides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Polysaccharides
  • disialosyl galactosyl globoside