Purpose: Tear fluid N-Glycome from patients affected with vernal (VKC) and atopic keratoconjunctivitis (AKC) was investigated to identify specific changes in tears and to recognize possible glyco-biomarkers.
Methods: The analysis of the N-glycans was performed using matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry on single tear samples. Tears from control normal subjects (CTRL), VKC and AKC patients were processed and treated with peptide N-glycosidase F (PNGase F) to deglycosylate N-glycoproteins. Released N-glycans were purified, permethylated, and analyzed by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry and tandem mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS and MALDI-TOF MS/MS).
Results: More than 150 complex N-glycans, including highly fucosylated biantennary, triantennary, tetra-antennary, and bisecting species, were observed in our spectra. Three distinct patterns for CTRL, VKC, and AKC patients were identified in terms of relative intensities for some N-glycans structures. Major variations involved bisecting and hyperfucosylated glycoforms. The most intense ions were associated with species at m/z 1907.0 (asialo, agalacto, bisected, biantennary structure-NGA2B) in CTRL MS profiles, at m/z 2605.3 and 2966.5 in VKC, and at m/z 2792.4 in AKC corresponding to a well-known biantennary, disialylated N-glycan. Several peaks were associated with structures bearing one or two Lewis X epitopes. Structures were confirmed by MS/MS analysis. Quantitative differences among the three groups were statistically significant.
Conclusions: Tear MS profiles are rich in specific glycoforms, particularly those with a high fucosylation degree, indicating both core and peripheral decoration. Tear N-glycome analysis provided important information for a better comprehension of VKC and AKC alterations at the molecular level.
Keywords: atopic keratoconjunctivitis; glycomics; mass spectrometry; tears; vernal keratocojunctivitis.
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