Cultured skin fibroblasts established from goats affected with beta-mannosidosis, an inherited neurovisceral storage disorder, showed an absence of lysosomal beta-mannosidase activity and the corresponding accumulation of a trisaccharide (TS) with the structure Man beta (1→4)GlcNAc beta (1→4)GlcNAc (0.4 mumol/g) and lesser amounts (0.15 mumol/g) of a Man beta (1→4)GlcNAc disaccharide (DS). By using purified storage TS isolated from fibroblasts metabolically labelled with [3H]GlcN, no conversion of TS into DS could be demonstrated in homogenates of affected cells at either lysosomal pH (4.4) or cytosolic pH (6.1), or in the culture medium (pH 7.0) of affected cells. Both TS and DS were secreted into the culture medium by affected fibroblasts. When affected fibroblasts were treated with tunicamycin before labelling with [3H]GlcN, the accumulation of both labelled TS and DS was completely inhibited. Treatment of both affected and normal goat fibroblasts with swainsonine resulted in the inhibition of lysosomal alpha-mannosidase activity and in the accumulation of the same labelled oligosaccharides in both. The major storage pentasaccharide from both normal and affected swainsonine-treated fibroblasts was sensitive to digestion with alpha-mannosidase and endo-beta-N-acetylhexosaminidase D, suggesting a branched mannose structure and a chitobiose core. In the absence of evidence for the existence of unusual N-linked glycoprotein-associated chitotriose oligosaccharide structures in affected goat fibroblasts, it must be concluded that degradative pathways for N-linked oligosaccharides are similar in both normal and affected goat fibroblasts, and that these pathways differ from catabolic pathways in human fibroblasts.

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