Glycopeptides were isolated from a proteolytic digest of human transferrin. After mild acid hydrolysis the desialylated glycopeptides were labelled by the galactose oxidase/NaB3H4 procedure and then fractionated by Sephadex-gel filtration or by anion-exchange chromatography. Either technique allowed separation of the two heterosaccharide chains (designated glycan I and glycan II) previously described for this protein by Spik, Vandersyppe, Fournet, Bayard, Charet, Bouquelet, Strecker & Montreuil (1974) (in Actes du Colloque Internationale No. 221 vol. 1, pp. 483–499). Subsequent chromatography on Sepharose–concanavalin A separated fractions containing different quantities of carbohydrates for each glycan, as indicated by analyses. The isolated glycan fractions were then tested for their abilities to bind to the immobilized rabbit hepatic lectin. Our studies suggest that either glycan can have a bi- or tri-antennary structure. Desialylated biantennary glycans I and II did not bind to the hepatic lectin. Desialylated triantennary glycan I was slightly retarded by the hepatic lectin, whereas the triantennary glycan II consisted of equal quantities of a retarded and a bound type. Desialylated triantennary glycan II was totally displaced from the hepatic lectin by using a buffer containing 0.05m-EDTA. The results suggest that greater structural heterogeneity exists in the carbohydrate moiety of human transferrin than was previously envisaged. Such heterogeneity could be reflected in several molecular forms of human transferrin, which, after desialylation, differ significantly in their affinities for the hepatic lectin.

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