Identification of Novel Glycans in the Mucus Layer of Shark and Skate Skin

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Sep 20;24(18):14331. doi: 10.3390/ijms241814331.


The mucus layer covering the skin of fish has several roles, including protection against pathogens and mechanical damage. While the mucus layers of various bony fish species have been investigated, the composition and glycan profiles of shark skin mucus remain relatively unexplored. In this pilot study, we aimed to explore the structure and composition of shark skin mucus through histological analysis and glycan profiling. Histological examination of skin samples from Atlantic spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) sharks and chain catsharks (Scyliorhinus retifer) revealed distinct mucin-producing cells and a mucus layer, indicating the presence of a functional mucus layer similar to bony fish mucus albeit thinner. Glycan profiling using liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry unveiled a diverse repertoire of mostly O-glycans in the mucus of the two sharks as well as little skate (Leucoraja erinacea). Elasmobranch glycans differ significantly from bony fish, especially in being more sulfated, and some bear resemblance to human glycans, such as gastric mucin O-glycans and H blood group-type glycans. This study contributes to the concept of shark skin having unique properties and provides a foundation for further research into the functional roles and potential biomedical implications of shark skin mucus glycans.

Keywords: N-glycans; O-glycans; elasmobranchs; glycans; glycoproteins; mass spectrometry; mucin; mucus layer; sharks; skin.