Human open eye tear fluid was separated by low-percentage SDS/PAGE to detect high-molecular-mass protein components. Two bands were found with apparent molecular masses of 330 and 270kDa respectively. By peptide-mass fingerprinting after tryptic digestion, the proteins were found to be isoforms of the DMBT1 gene product, with over 30% of the predicted protein covered by the tryptic peptides. By using gradient SDS/agarose/polyacrylamide composite gel electrophoresis and staining for glycosylation, it was shown that the two isoforms were the major high-molecular-mass glycoproteins of >200kDa in human tear fluid. Western blotting showed that the proteins expressed sialyl-Lea. After the release of oligosaccharides by reductive β-elimination from protein blotted on to PVDF membrane, it was revealed by liquid chromatography-MS that the O-linked oligosaccharides were comprised mainly of highly sialylated oligosaccharides with up to 16 monosaccharide units. A majority of the oligosaccharides could be described by the formula dHex0→2NeuAc1→xHexxHexNAcx(-ol), x = 1–6, where Hex stands for hexose, dHex for deoxyhexose, HexNAc for N-acetylhexosamine and NeuAc for N-acetylneuraminate. The number of sialic acids in the formula is less than 5. Interpretation of collision-induced fragmentation tandem MS confirmed the presence of sialic acid and suggested the presence of previously undescribed structures carrying the sialyl-Lea epitopes. Small amounts of neutral and sulphated species were also present. This is the first time that O-linked oligosaccharides have been detected and described from protein variant of the DMBT1 gene.

Abbreviations used: AgPAGE, agarose/polyacrylamide composite gel electrophoresis; LC-MS, liquid chromatography-MS; LC-MS/MS, LC-tandem MS; MALDI, matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization; MS/MS, tandem MS; PAS, periodate–Schiff; SRCR, scavenger receptor cysteine-rich.

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