To understand the role of human natural IgM known as antibodies against the carbohydrate epitope Tn, the antibodies were isolated using GalNAcα−Sepharose affinity chromatography, and their specificity was profiled using microarrays (a glycan array printed with oligosaccharides and bacterial polysaccharides, as well as a glycopeptide array), flow cytometry, and inhibition ELISA. The antibodies bound a restricted number of GalNAcα-terminated oligosaccharides better than the parent monosaccharide, e.g., 6-O-Su-GalNAcα and GalNAcα1−3Galβ1−3(4)GlcNAcβ. The binding with several bacterial polysaccharides that have no structural resemblance to the affinity ligand GalNAcα was quite unexpected. Given that GalNAcα is considered the key fragment of the Tn antigen, it is surprising that these antibodies bind weakly GalNAcα−OSer and do not bind a wide variety of GalNAcα−OSer/Thr-containing mucin glycopeptides. At the same time, we have observed specific binding to cells having Tn-positive glycoproteins containing similar glycopeptide motifs in a conformationally rigid macromolecule. Thus, specific recognition of the Tn antigen apparently requires that the naturally occurring “anti-Tn” IgM recognize a complex epitope comprising the GalNAcα as an essential component and a fairly long amino acid sequence where the amino acids adjacent to GalNAcα do not contact the antibody paratope; i.e., the antibodies recognize a spatial epitope or a molecular pattern rather than a classical continuous sequence. In addition, we have not found any increase in the binding of natural antibodies when GalNAcα residues were clustered. These results may help in further development of anticancer vaccines based on synthetic Tn constructs.
Human blood contains a big variety of natural antibodies, circulating throughout life at constant concentration. Previously, we have found natural antibodies capable of binding to trisaccharide Galα1-4Galβ1-4Glc (Pk) practically in all humans. Intriguingly, the same trisaccharide is a key fragment of glycosphingolipid globotriaosylceramide (Gb3Cer) – normal component of erythrocyte and endothelial cell membrane, i.e. the antibodies and their cognate antigen coexist without any immunological reaction.
To explain the inertness of human anti-Pk antibodies towards own cells.
Materials and methods
We used a combination of immunochemical and molecular dynamics (MD) experiments. Antibodies were isolated using affinity media with Pk trisaccharide, their epitope specificity was characterized using ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) with a set of synthetic glycans related to Pk synthetic glycans and FACS (Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorting) analysis of cells with inserted natural Gb3Cer and its synthetic analogue. Conformations and clustering of glycolipids immersed into a lipid bilayer were studied using MD simulations.
Isolated specific antibodies were completely unable to bind natural Gb3Cer both inserted into cells and in artificial membrane, whereas strong interaction took place with synthetic analogue differing by the presence of a spacer between trisaccharide and lipid part. MD simulations revealed: i) although membrane-bound glycans do not form stable long-living aggregates, their transient packing is more compact in natural Gb3 as compared with the synthetic analog, ii) similar conformation of Pk glycan in composition of the glycolipids, iii) no effect on the mentioned above results when cholesterol was inserted into membrane, and iv) better accessibility of the synthetic version for interaction with proteins.
Both immunochemical and molecular dynamics data argue that the reason of the “tolerance” of natural anti-Pk antibodies towards cell-bound Gb3Cer is the spatial inaccessibility of Pk glycotope for interaction. We can conclude that the antibodies are not related to the blood group P system.