We studied the carbohydrate recognition systems of hepatocytes isolated from 16-day-old embryos, 19-day-old embryos and chicks within 24 h of hatching. We localized and quantified at the ultrastructural level the binding sites for glycoproteins exposing terminal N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), mannose and N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) residues by means of protein-gold complexes. Binding sites specific for GlcNAc and mannose residues are present on hepatocytes from embryos and chicks. On the contrary GalNAc specific binding sites are exclusively observed on cells from 16-day-old embryos. The number and distribution of gold particles on hepatocyte cell surfaces depend on the binding sites and the age considered. We describe a modulation in the number of GlcNAc, and mannose specific receptors present on the cell surface between the embryonal stage and neonatal life.

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