alpha-Dystroglycan is a heavily glycosylated protein, which is localized on the Schwann cell membrane as well as the sarcolemma, and links the transmembrane protein beta-dystroglycan to laminin in the extracellular matrix. We have shown previously that sialidase treatment, but not N-glycanase treatment, of bovine peripheral nerve alpha-dystroglycan greatly reduces its binding activity to laminin, suggesting that the sialic acid of O-glycosidically-linked oligosaccharides may be essential for this binding. In this report, we analyzed the structures of the sialylated O-linked oligosaccharides of bovine peripheral nerve alpha-dystroglycan by two methods. O-Glycosidically-linked oligosaccharides were liberated by alkaline-borotritide treatment or by mild hydrazinolysis followed by 2-aminobenzamide-derivatization. Acidic fractions obtained by anion exchange column chromatography that eluted at a position corresponding to monosialylated oligosaccharides were converted to neutral oligosaccharides by exhaustive sialidase digestion. The sialidases from Arthrobacter ureafaciens and from Newcastle disease virus resulted in the same degree of hydrolysis. The neutral oligosaccharide fraction, thus obtained, gave a major peak with a mobility of 3.8-3.9 glucose units upon gel filtration, and its reducing terminus was identified as a mannose derivative. Based on the results of sequential exoglycosidase digestion, lectin column chromatography, and reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography, we concluded that the major sialylated O-glycosidically-linked oligosaccharide of the alpha-dystroglycan was a novel O-mannosyl-type oligosaccharide, the structure of which was Siaalpha2-3Galbeta1-4GlcNAcbeta1-2Man-Ser/Thr (where Sia is sialic acid). This oligosaccharide constituted at least 66% of the sialylated O-linked sugar chains. Furthermore, a laminin binding inhibition study suggested that the sialyl N-acetyllactosamine moiety of this sugar chain was involved in the interaction of the alpha-dystroglycan with laminin.