Mannose 6-phosphate (Man-6-P) is a carbohydrate modification that is generated on newly synthesized lysosomal proteins. This modification is specifically recognized by two Man-6-P receptors that direct the vesicular transport of the lysosomal enzymes from the Golgi to a prelysosomal compartment. The Man-6-P is rapidly removed in the lysosome of most cell types; however, in neurons the Man-6-P modification persists. In this study we have examined the spectrum of Man-6-P-containing glycoproteins in brain specimens from patients with different neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs), which are progressive neurodegenerative disorders with established links to defects in lysosomal catabolism. We find characteristic alterations in the Man-6-P glycoproteins in specimens from late-infantile (LINCL), juvenile (JNCL) and adult (ANCL) patients. Man-6-P glycoproteins in LINCL patients were similar to controls, with the exception that the band corresponding to CLN2, a recently identified lysosomal enzyme whose deficiency results in this disease, was absent. In an ANCL patient, two Man-6-P glycoproteins were elevated in comparison with normal controls, suggesting that this disease also results from a perturbation in lysosomal hydrolysis. In JNCL, total levels of Man-6-P glycoproteins were 7-fold those of controls. In general this was reflected by increased lysosomal enzyme activities in JNCL but three Man-6-P glycoproteins were elevated to an even greater degree. These are CLN2 and the unidentified proteins that are also highly elevated in the ANCL.

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