, Volume 25, Issue 8, pp 763-773
Date: 09 May 2008

Glycan structures of ocular surface mucins in man, rabbit and dog display species differences

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The composition of the mucus gel of the tear film reflects the competing needs for transparency, stability, hydration, and protection of the ocular surface. Mucins form the macromolecular scaffolding of this hydrated gel, and glycans decorating these glycoproteins represent a rich source of binding ligands that may both modulate microbial binding and regulate the physicochemical characteristics of the gel. This study compares the structure of O-linked glycans derived from the ocular mucins of three species, to determine whether the ocular surface microenvironment dictates the need for a common pattern of O-linked carbohydrate structures. Ocular mucus aspirates were collected from healthy humans, rabbits and dogs. Mucins were purified using standard protocols. O-glycans were released by hydrazinoloysis and subsequently analysed by a combination of HPLC, exoglycosidase digestions and LC–MS/MS. A total of 12 different O-glycans were identified. In human ocular mucin, the majority were negatively charged and terminated in sialic acid, whilst those from rabbit or dog were mainly neutral and terminated in α 1-2 fucose and/or α 1-3 N-acetylgalactosamine. The glycans were short: the most common structures being tetra-, tri- or disaccharides. Less elaborate glycan structures are encountered at the ocular surface than at many other mucosal surfaces. Species-specific glycan expression is a feature of ocular surface mucins, and has implications for their defensive properties where different microbial and environmental challenges are encountered.

Louise Royle and Elizabeth Matthews contributed equally to this work.