Browse Subject Areas

Click through the PLOS taxonomy to find articles in your field.

For more information about PLOS Subject Areas, click here.

  • Loading metrics

Jacalin Bound Plasma O-Glycoproteome and Reduced Sialylation of Alpha 2-HS Glycoprotein (A2HSG) in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

  • Ashish Saroha,

    Affiliations Genomics and Molecular Medicine Division, CSIR- Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, India, Department of Natural Science, West Bengal University of Technology, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

  • Saravanan Kumar,

    Affiliation Genomics and Molecular Medicine Division, CSIR- Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, India

  • Bishnu P. Chatterjee,

    Affiliation Department of Natural Science, West Bengal University of Technology, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

  • Hasi R. Das

    Affiliation Genomics and Molecular Medicine Division, CSIR- Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, India

Jacalin Bound Plasma O-Glycoproteome and Reduced Sialylation of Alpha 2-HS Glycoprotein (A2HSG) in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

  • Ashish Saroha, 
  • Saravanan Kumar, 
  • Bishnu P. Chatterjee, 
  • Hasi R. Das


Glycosylation studies of plasma proteins can reveal information about the onset and progression of diseases, where in the glycan biosynthetic pathways are disturbed as in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The present study was focused on analysis of O-linked glycoproteins of plasma in RA patients. Two dimensional gel electrophoresis of jacalin bound plasma of RA patients revealed a number of differentially expressed protein spots as compared to healthy controls. Eighteen protein spots were found to have statistically significant (p<0.05) difference in their expression level from four sets of gels and were identified by MALDI-TOF MS. Most of the identified proteins were predicted to be O-glycosylated proteins by Net–O-Gly 3.1 algorithm. Among these the alpha 2HS glycoprotein (A2HSG) was found to be down regulated whereas inter alpha trypsin inhibitor H4 (ITIH4) was up regulated and this was validated by Western blotting. The glycosylation studies showed the reduced N-linked sialylation of A2HSG in RA patients. Altered glycoprotein expression and functional as well as structural studies of glycans might help in the diagnosis of RA and understanding the disease pathogenesis.


Glycoproteins play important roles in cellular functions like cell to cell adhesion, cell migration, cell signaling, immunity, and various other intracellular processes through their glycans [1][3]. Cellular factors play a pivotal role in the regulation of the glycosylation reactions in cells. Alterations in the cellular environment affect the activity of various glycosidases and glycosyltransferases leading to the aberrant glycosylation [4][6]. Many subtle changes in functions of glycoproteins were found to be attributable to changes in composition or structure of the glycan moieties. Therefore, interest in glycoproteomic analysis has gained momentum to identify the glycan based disease markers. As plasma is an important reservoir of glycoproteins and reflects the patho-physiological condition of the body, the plasma glycoproteins hold a great potential to recognize disease specific glycan based molecular fingerprints [7], [8]. Currently, disease related biomarker discovery has grown dramatically to replace sub optimal in-vitro diagnostic assays.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune, chronic, systemic, inflammatory rheumatic disease characterized by pain and swelling of synovial joints leading to their deformation and destruction [9]. The most notable changes during the development of RA are alterations of glycosylation in plasma proteins and their level of expression [10]. The increased level of agalactosylated IgG (IgG0) correlates with the disease severity in patients of RA [11], [12]. Micro heterogeneity in glycosylation of IgG and many other plasma proteins have been widely studied and are implicated in the pathogenesis of RA [13][18]. These changes in glycosylation activate the immune system and lead to chronic inflammation of the synovial membrane [19].

The present study was aimed at identifying glycomarkers by glycoprotein analysis of the plasma proteins of RA patients. The enrichment of O-linked glycoproteins of plasma was carried out by using jacalin affinity chromatography, followed by protein profiling by 2-DE. The jacalin binds to O-linked GalNAc alpha1-peptide where C6-OH of <alpha>-GalNAc is free and is not bound/or in a glycosidic bond to another sugar residue like Tn-antigen (GalNAc<alpha>1-ser/thr), core-1 (Gal<beta>1–3GalNAc<alpha>1-ser/thr or T-antigen), sialyl T (Neu5Ac<alpha>2–3GalNAc<alpha>1-ser/thr) and core-3 (GlcNAc<beta>1–3GalNAc<alpha>1-ser/thr) structures [20]. Jacalin doesn’t bind to all types of O-glycans (as mentioned above) and binds also to high mannose N-glycans. Although other lectins like Helix pomatia agglutinin (HPA) and peanut agglutinin (PNA) are also known to bind O-linked glycans [21], [22]. The jacalin has some advantages over these lectins such as high specificity and easy availability at comparatively low cost. Unlike PNA, jacalin binds sialylated glycans albeit poorly. The differentially expressed plasma proteins in RA patients and healthy controls were identified by MALDI-TOF MS. Additionally, using bioinformatic tools, functional categorization and prediction of O-glycosylation sites in differentially expressed proteins were evaluated. The expression levels of two inflammation related proteins such as, alpha 2HS glycoprotein (A2HSG) and inter alpha trypsin inhibitor H4 (ITIH4) were validated by Western blotting.


O-linked Glycoproteins, 2-DE and MS Identification

To enrich O-glycosylated plasma proteins, jacalin affinity column was used. The 2-DE analysis of jacalin bound plasma proteins of control and RA patients was carried out to identify the differentially expressed protein spots (Figure 1). The software analysis of 2-DE gels by PD-Quest showed many spots present in control and RA patients. The changes of protein expression in RA patients were calculated with respect to control from four sets of gels. Eighteen spots showing ≥1.5 fold difference (p<0.05) in the expression level, were considered and identified by MALDI-TOF MS (Table 1, Figure S1).

Figure 1. Two dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE) of jacalin bound plasma.

A representative silver stained 2-DE gel image of jacalin agarose bound plasma proteins from four sets of pooled samples from controls and RA patients. The samples were pooled as described in materials and methods section. The gels were analyzed for differential expression of proteins using PD-Quest software and the differentially expressed proteins were labelled by arrows. The lower panel showed zoomed image and 3D view of A2HSG (spot no 9) and ITIH4 (spot no 15).

Table 1. List of differentially expressed proteins, as identified by MALDI-TOF MS, in plasma of RA patients with respect to normal control.

Validation of Differentially Expressed Proteins by Western Blotting

Of 18 identified proteins, one up regulated ITIH4 and one down regulated protein A2HSG in plasma of RA patients, were selected for further validation by immunobloting as these are known to be associated with inflammation [23], [24]. Since the enrichment of plasma glycoproteins by jacalin chromatography may not reflect the actual difference in the expression of the protein, the expression levels of A2HSG and ITIH4 were checked in plasma without jacalin enrichment by Western blotting (Figure 2A, C). The densitometric analysis of Western blots showed that the changes in the levels of expression were statistically significant (Figure 2B, D). However, the fold differences before (Western blotting) and after (2-DE) jacalin binding varies for both the proteins.

Figure 2. Western blot analysis of A2HSG and ITIH4.

(A) In RA (n = 35), pool 1 and pool 2 of group 1 consisted of 7 and 8 samples respectively while each pool of group 2 contained 10 samples. Similarly, in control (n = 30) each pool of group 1 and group 2 consisted of 10 and 5 samples respectively.(B) Mean density of each protein band in the Western blot followed by statistical analysis using One way ANOVA (p<0.05) showed the change in the expression of protein. (C) Representative Western blot image of A2HSG and ITIH4 from individual Control and RA samples. (D) Mean percentage relative density of each protein band in control and RA were plotted on Y-axis. Statistical analysis was done using Mann-Whitney U test (p<0.05).

Bioinformatics Analysis

The O-glycosylation site prediction analysis using Net-O-Glyc algorithm of the jacalin bound glycoproteins, as detected in the gel, revealed that most of the identified proteins had O-glycosylation sites (Table 2). The Net-O-glyc server predicts only mucin type GalNAc O-glycosylation sites in mammalian proteins. However, there are other O-glycans present in proteins as well [25]. The functional categorization of these proteins showed most of them to be of immunological importance (Table 1).

Table 2. Prediction of O-glycosylation sites using Net-O-Glyc3.1 program.

Altered Glycosylation of A2HSG

Sialic acid is an important charged sugar present on both N- and O-linked glycan structures in A2HSG. To study the sialylation changes in A2HSG, we used a strategy involving 2-DE immunoblotting of plasma (without jacalin enrichment) after treatment with glycosidases. Immunoblotting after 2-DE showed the difference in isoelectric points (pI) of A2HSG in control and RA patients. The pI was manually calculated by equally dividing the entire length of the pH strip (4–7) containing the gel. The pIs of A2HSG in control and RA patients were found to be 4.5 and 4.7 respectively (Figure 3). Sialidase treatment resulted in shift of pI of A2HSG in both control and RA patients to 5.3 each. This change in pI appeared to be due to decrease in the level of sialic acid. PNGase F digestion of plasma was carried out to ascertain whether the decrease in the level of sialic acid is associated with N- or O-linked glycan. The PNGase F digestion shifted the pIs to 4.8 in both controls and RA patients suggesting the reduced sialylation of A2HSG in N-linked glycans in RA. Sialylation status of A2HSG by MAA (Macckia ammurensis agglutinin, specific to Neu5Ac α2, 3 glycans) blotting indicated significant reduction in binding of MAA with A2HSG in patients’ plasma (Figure 4A). Lectin (MAA) blotting of plasma after PNGase F treatment also showed better binding with control compared to RA patients. However, the difference in MAA binding between control and patients’ plasma reduced significantly after enzyme treatment. These results indicated the 0.3 fold sialylation (Neu5Ac α2, 3) difference in N-linked glycans of A2HSG in RA patients (Figure 4B).

Figure 3. Glycosylation studies in A2HSG.

2-DE Western blot of A2HSG in untreated plasma showed the higher pI of A2HSG in RA patients compared to control. The treatment with sialidase shifted the pI of control towards higher pI in comparison to that of RA, while the shift in pI was found to be equal in both the samples after PNGase F treatment. The experiment was repeated thrice with different pooled samples.

Figure 4. Glycosylation studies in A2HSG by lectin blotting.

The binding of sialic acid specific lectin (MAA, Maackia amurensis) to A2HSG in (A) untreated (B) PNGase F treated plasma. Same pooled samples were used for lectin blot (C) and Western blot using anti-A2HSG antibody (D) to locate the protein before and after enzyme treatment. C1, C2 are pool 1 and 2 of control group 1 respectively while C3 represents pool 1 of control group 2. R1, R2 are pool 1 and 2 of patient group 1 respectively while R3 represents pool 1 of patient group 2.


Profiling of plasma proteins in RA can be very valuable in understanding disease pathology and can provide potential marker for disease. In this report, the comprehensive comparative analysis of jacalin bound mucin type O-linked plasma glycoproteins in RA patients and normal controls was done using advanced proteomic tools like 2-DE and MS. O-linked glycosylation has been widely studied in various cellular processes and diseases [26], [27]. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study showing the comparative profiling of jacalin bound O-linked plasma proteins in RA patients. Jacalin has been used for the enrichment of plasma IgA1, which has many O-linked glycosylation sites [28], and was observed as thick blotch in 2-DE. Besides IgA1, many differentially expressed proteins were found in jacalin bound plasma of RA patients as compared to healthy controls. The identification of these differentially expressed proteins by MS revealed most proteins to be of immunological importance. Lectin affinity chromatography sometimes may result in non specific binding [29]. Moreover, no consensus recognition sequence for O-glycosyltransferases is known; therefore, analysis of jacalin bound proteins was carried out using NetOGlyc 3.1 to ensure the presence of O-linked glycosylation sites. The in silico analysis revealed that most of the jacalin bound proteins possessed potential O-glycosylation sites. Since A2HSG and ITIH4 have been reported to be associated with inflammation [23], [24], we selected their immune reactivity and expression level in the plasma of RA patients by Western blotting. Both the proteins indeed were found to be immunologically reactive indicating them to be important in RA.

ITIH4 is a newly discovered member of inter alpha trypsin inhibitor family of heavy chains and is also called as plasma kallikrein-sensitive glycoprotein (PK120) or inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor family heavy chain-related protein [30]. It has two potential O-linked glycosylation sites. Unlike other heavy chain members of ITI family (ITIH1-7), ITIH4 exists as a free heavy chain isoform in blood circulation [31]. It is a 120 kDa protein which is cleaved into 85 kDa N-terminal and 35 kDa C-terminal fragment by plasma kallikarein system. The 85 kDa fragment is further cleaved into 57 kDa and 28 kDa fragments. The above proteolytic processing of ITIH4 varies in some cancers [32]. Mohamed et al studied the level of 35 kDa fragment in various types of carcinomas [33]. We observed that the level of 85 kDa fragment was found to be increased by two fold in plasma of RA patients. The in vivo function of ITIH4 is not known but the structural analysis revealed that it contains potential actin and calcium binding sites suggesting its role in inhibition of actin polymerization and calcium metabolism. Additionally, this protein was also found to block the phagocytosis of polymorphonuclear blood cells indicating its anti-inflammatory role [34], [35]. Significantly elevated level of ITIH4 in the sera of postmenopausal women was shown to predict its role in calcium metabolism and prognostic value as a marker for increased osteoclast activity and bone fracture [36].

A2HSG, a human homologue of bovine fetuin-A, is synthesized in liver but enriched in bones suggesting its role in regulation of osteogenesis [37]. A2HSG acts as an inhibitor of ectopic calcification [38]. It plays a role in augmentation of phagocytosis of neutrophils by macrophages, thus acting as an anti-inflammatory molecule [39], [40]. In our study, the level of plasma A2HSG was decreased by two fold in RA patients as compared to normal controls. The earlier reports have shown a 75% reduction in the level of A2HSG in hepatocytes in the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6. A probable explanation for the decreased level of serum A2HSG in RA patients may be due to high level of IL-6 [41]. The reduced level of A2HSG has also been reported to be associated with the vascular calcification and consequently the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases [42].

A2HSG contains both N- and O-linked glycan sites. Due to the lack of specific enzyme to separate the intact O-linked glycans, an alternate strategy was used to study site specific (N/O linked) sialylation. The treatment with PNGase F and Arthrobacter ureafaciens sialidase and 2-DE revealed the reduced sialylation of N-glycans of A2HSG in plasma of RA patients. Sialylation plays an important role in structural and functional establishment of synaptic pathways [43], leukocytes rolling and extravasation during inflammation [44]. The reduced sialylation activity was shown in various clinical conditions like metastasis of cancer cells [45], IgA1 nephropathy [46], and pancreatic cancer [47]. In the case of secretory proteins, like A2HSG, the desialylation accelerates the process of degradation of proteins by interaction with asialoglycoprotein receptors present on the hepatic cell membrane [48]. Various other pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-6 released in RA are known to affect the glycosylation of several acute-phase proteins by a mechanism independent of that regulating their rate of synthesis [49]. Here, the reduction in sialylation may not be limited to A2HSG only but may be occurring in other proteins as well. Przybysz et al reported an altered sialylation and fucosylation of synovial and plasma fibronection in RA patients [50]. Desialylation of A2HSG may have a major effect on the protein structure and its functions, such as bone calcification, ossification and cell adhesion as the interaction of A2HSG with other molecules is mediated through sialylation [51].

Materials and Methods

Ethics Statement

All the participants involved in the study gave written informed consent and the human ethics committees of Research and Referral Army hospital and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology approved this study.

Sample Collection

Blood samples from 35 RA patients fulfilling the revised criteria of American College of Rheumatology [52] for the disease, were collected from the Department of Rheumatology, Research and Referral Army Hospital, New Delhi, India. All the patients gave informed consent and the human ethics committee from hospital and the institute approved this study. Blood samples from 30 healthy individuals served as controls. The age in the control and RA patient groups ranged from 30–45 and 30–50 years respectively. In case of RA, samples were divided into two groups considering the age 30–40 years (15 samples, group 1) and 41–50 years (20 samples, group 2) as shown in Table S1. Similarly, the controls were also divided in two age groups, 30–40 (20 samples, group 1) and 41–45 (10 samples, group 2). Each group was further divided in two pools. In RA, pool 1 and pool 2 of group 1 consisted of 7 and 8 samples respectively while each pool of group 2 contained 10 samples. Similarly, in control each pool of group 1 and group 2 consisted of 10 and 5 samples respectively. The Western blot analysis of individual samples was also done. The plasma was separated from the blood after centrifugation at 2500×g for 15 min at 4°C. Plasma samples were aliquoted and stored at −80°C till further use.

Enrichment of Plasma Glycoproteins

Prior to glycoprotein enrichment, 500 µl of plasma sample from each pool of RA patients and healthy controls was diluted with 10 mM TBS (pH 7.2) and loaded separately on spin columns containing 500 µl of jacalin agarose beads (Vector laboratories, USA). After incubating for 30 min at room temperature, unbound proteins were removed by spinning the column. The column was washed with TBS till the OD at 280 nm reached to zero and the bound proteins were eluted by TBS buffer containing 0.8 M galactose and 500 µl of each fraction was collected. All the fractions were pooled and buffer exchanged against TBS (10 times diluted) and concentrated using 5 kDa protein concentrator (Amicon Inc, USA). The concentration of jacalin bound protein was estimated using Bradford protein assay [53].

Two Dimensional Gel Electrophoresis (2-DE), Protein Visualization and Image Analysis of Gels

Three hundred microgram of jacalin bound plasma from each group of controls and RA patients were resuspended in 300 µl of rehydration buffer (8 M urea, 4% CHAPS, 65 mM DTT, and 0.25% ampholytes). The samples were rehydrated on 17 cm IPG strip, pH 4–7 overnight followed by IEF (Protean IEF cell, Bio-Rad, USA) at 10,000 V till 50,000 Vh were reached. The strips were then equilibrated for 20 min in reduction buffer (6 M urea, 1.5 mM Tris-HCl (pH 8.8), 2% (w/v) SDS, 2% (w/v) DTT and 20% (w/v) glycerol) followed by replacement with alkylation buffer (6 M urea, 1.5 mM Tris-HCl (pH 8.8), 2% (w/v) SDS, 2.5% (w/v) IAA and 20% (w/v) glycerol) for 20 min. The second dimension separation was carried out in 12% polyacrylamide gel using Protean IIxi multi-cell apparatus (Bio-Rad, USA) at a constant current of 50 mA per gel till the tracking dye reached near bottom age of the gel. Mass spectrometry compatible silver staining of gels was performed and scanned as 16 bit grey scale images (Alpha Digi doc 1201 scanner, Alpha Innotech Corp, USA) [13]. 2D gels of both control and RA patients were run and silver stained in parallel to avoid any variation. Intensity of each protein spot was manually determined using alpha digi doc software and the normalization of the spot intensities was done by the total optical density in the gel i.e. the normalized intensity was the percentage of the intensity of each spot over the sum of intensities of all detected spots in the gel. The fold change in expression of each statistically matching spot in RA with respect to control was calculated.

In-gel Digestion and Protein Identification by Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS)

Silver stained protein spots from 2-DE gels were excised, cut into small pieces and processed for in-gel digestion as described earlier [13]. Briefly, gels pieces were washed in destaining solution (0.2% K3FeCN6 and 0.04% Na2S2O3) till the brown colour disappeared completely, followed by washing with 100 mM NH4HCO3 and 100% CH3CN in 1∶1 ratio. Finally, gel pieces were dehydrated in 100% CH3CN and dried completely in speed vac (Thermo savant, USA) for 20 min. Ten microlitre of sequencing grade trypsin (20 ng/µl), prepared in 25 mM NH4HCO3, was added to gel pieces and kept at 37°C for 16 h for digestion of proteins. The supernatant containing peptides was collected and transferred to the fresh microfuge tubes rinsed with CH3CN. Equal volumes (10 µl) of 0.1% TFA and CH3CN were added and sonicated for 15 min at room temperature. Supernatant was collected and dried completely in speed vac and stored at −80°C till MS analysis. For MS analysis the peptides were resuspended in 10 µl of 0.1% TFA containing 30% CH3CN. One microlitre of peptide solution was mixed with an equal amount of α-cyano hydroxy cinnamic acid (CHCA) matrix solution prepared in 70% CH3CN and 30% 0.1%TFA. One microlitre of the mixture was spotted on MALDI ground steel target plate and mass spectrum was obtained on Ultraflex II MALDI-TOF/TOF mass spectrometer equipped with a pulsed N2 laser (337 nm). Operating conditions were as follows: ion source 1 = 19.00 kV, ion source 2 = 16.50 kV, lens voltage = 20.00 kV, optimized pulsed ion extraction time = 120 ns, matrix suppression = 400 Da and positive reflectron mode. Around 500 laser shots were collected from one spot from five different positions with 100 shots per position. Spectra were externally calibrated with the following peptide masses - angiotensin II (M+H) +mono = 1046.54180, angiotensin I (M+H)+ mono = 1296.684 80, bombesin (M+H)+mono = 1347.73450, ACTH Clip (1–17) (M+H)+ mono = 2093.08620, somatostatin (28)(M+H)+mono = 3147.47100. Peptide mass fingerprinting and MS/MS (fragmentation) spectra were searched online against NCBInr, Swiss-prot and mascot (MSDB) databases using the mascot search engine (Matrix Science, London) with following parameters: mass tolerance for PMF = 100 ppm, mass tolerance for MS/MS = 0.5 Da, fixed modification = carbamidomethylation, variable modification = methionine oxidation and missed cleavage = 0–1.

Western Blot Analysis

Equal amount of proteins (50 µg) from plasma of controls and RA patients were separated by sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). After the separation, proteins were electro blotted onto nitrocellulose membrane using a semi-dry apparatus (Bio-Rad, USA). The membranes were blocked with 5% BSA (w/v) prepared in phosphate buffered saline containing 0.1% Tween -20 (PBST) for 1 h at room temperature, washed and were separately incubated with the following antibodies: anti-human alpha 2HS glycoprotein (Acris antibodies, GmbH) and anti human ITIH4 (Santa Cruz Biotechnology) each diluted to 1∶5000 using blocking buffer. After washing with PBST the membrane was incubated with HRP conjugated anti-mouse/anti-goat IgG secondary antibody (dilution 1∶10,000) prepared in PBST. Reactive protein bands were visualized by exposing the membrane to X-ray film (Fuji films, Japan) for 15, 30 and 60 sec using ECL Western blotting detection kit (Santa Cruz biotechnology). Western blotting of each protein was performed in duplicates. For individual samples the percentage relative density of A2HSG and ITIH4 was calculated by normalising with the density of total proteins of each sample as appeared in the ponceau staining (Figure S2, Table S2).

Bio-informatics Analysis

The O-glycosylation sites in the proteins were predicted by using Net-O-glyc 3.1 algorithm ( The Net-O-glyc server produces neural network predictions of only mucin type GalNAc O-glycosylation sites in mammalian proteins [54].

Glycosidases Treatment of Plasma Proteins

Fifty microgram of plasma proteins of control and RA patients were separately digested with PNGase F from Flavobacterium meningosepticum (Sigma chemicals) in a digestion buffer containing 1% Triton X-100 and 10 mM β-mercaptoethanol. The protein solution was heated at 100°C for 10 min and cooled before adding 5 µl (0.5U µl) of PNGase F (Sigma chemicals). Digestion was carried out at 37°C for 3 h. Reaction was stopped by heating the solution at 100°C for 5 min. The digestion of plasma proteins (50 µg) was carried out using 3 µl of sialidase from Arthrobacter ureafaciens (Sigma chemicals) in 50 mM sodium phosphate buffer pH 5.8 for 3 h. The reaction was stopped by heating at 100°C for 5 min.

Lectin Blotting

After transferring the proteins from SDS-PAGE gel to the NC membrane, the membrane was blocked with 3% BSA prepared in PBST. After washing the membrane was treated with 1 µg/ml of biotinylated Macckia ammurensis agglutinin (MAA) prepared in PBST at room temperature for 1 h. The membrane was washed again 3 times with PBST and streptavidin peroxidase (1 µg/ml) was added and kept for 1 h at room temperature. The blots were developed using developing solution, which contained 4-chloro napthol (1 mg/ml) and 0.1% of H2O2 prepared in 20% methanol in PBS.

Statistical Analysis

Protein spots showing change in the expression (≥1.5 fold) between two groups at the significance level of p<0.05 were considered as statistically significant. Results were expressed as mean ± S.D. in the Western blots. Statistical analysis was performed by student’s t-test and one way ANOVA. For individual samples the statistical analysis was made by Mann whitney U test where p<0.05 was considered as statistically significant. All the statistical analysis was done using Graphpad prism 5.0 (Graphpad software).

Conclusion and Future Directions

Glycans hold immense potential for disease diagnosis as the changes in the physiological condition of the cell affect the protein glycosylation machinery. Studies on glycobiomarkers converge with research on how distinct carbohydrates determinants are turned into bioactive signals. The O-glycoproteomic strategy, involving jacalin enrichment and digestion with various glycosidases, was found to be very useful in investigating the altered expression and glycosylation of plasma proteins in RA. The functional and structural characterization of the altered glycans will help in understanding the role of protein glycosylation in disease which may pave the way for novel therapeutic targets.

Supporting Information

Figure S1.

MALDI-TOF MS analysis of alpha 2-HS glycoprotein (A2HSG). (A) PMF spectrum (B) Online database search result of PMF spectrum showing the significance of the result (C) masses of peptides matching to the protein and (D) complete sequence of the protein and position of the peptides matching to the protein are underlined.



Figure S2.

Ponceau image for densitometric analysis. Ponceau stained image of individual controls and RA patients after transferring the proteins to nitrocellulose membrane.



Table S1.

Demographic data of RA patients.



Table S2.

Densitometric analysis of images. Densitometric data of ponceau stained and anti-A2HSG and anti-ITIH4 blot images of individual controls and RA patients as calculated by alpha digidoc algorithm.




We thank Dr. O. P. Garg from Army Hospital, Delhi, India for providing the samples of RA patients.

Author Contributions

Conceived and designed the experiments: HRD AS BPC. Performed the experiments: AS SK. Analyzed the data: AS SK BPC HRD. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: HRD. Wrote the paper: AS SK BPC HRD.


  1. 1. Lowe JB (2001) Glycosylation, immunity, and autoimmunity. Cell 104: 809–812.
  2. 2. Jafar-Nejad H, Leonardi J, Fernandez-Valdivia R (2010) Role of glycans and glycosyltransferases in the regulation of Notch signaling. Glycobiology 20: 931–949.
  3. 3. Helenius A, Aebi M (2001) Intracellular functions of N-linked glycans. Science 291: 2364–2369.
  4. 4. Blomme B, Van SC, Callewaert N, Van VH (2009) Alteration of protein glycosylation in liver diseases. J Hepatol 50: 592–603.
  5. 5. Durand G, Seta N (2000) Protein glycosylation and diseases: blood and urinary oligosaccharides as markers for diagnosis and therapeutic monitoring. Clin Chem 46: 795–805.
  6. 6. Ohtsubo K, Marth JD (2006) Glycosylation in cellular mechanisms of health and disease. Cell 126: 855–867.
  7. 7. He QY, Chiu JF (2003) Proteomics in biomarker discovery and drug development. J Cell Biochem 89: 868–886.
  8. 8. Orchard S (2007) Proteomics: from technology development to biomarker applications. Expert Rev Proteomics 4: 709–710.
  9. 9. Firestein GS (2003) Evolving concepts of rheumatoid arthritis. Nature 423: 356–361.
  10. 10. Tilleman K, Deforce D (2008) Proteomics in rheumatology. Expert Rev Proteomics 5: 755–759.
  11. 11. Carson DA, Chen PP, Fox RI, Kipps TJ, Jirik F, et al. (1987) Rheumatoid factor and immune networks. Annu Rev Immunol 5: 109–126.
  12. 12. Parkkinen J (1989) Aberrant lectin-binding activity of immunoglobulin G in serum from rheumatoid arthritis patients. Clin Chem 35: 1638–1643.
  13. 13. Saroha A, Biswas S, Chatterjee BP, Das HR (2011) Altered glycosylation and expression of plasma alpha-1-acid glycoprotein and haptoglobin in rheumatoid arthritis. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci 879: 1839–1843.
  14. 14. Saroha A, Das HR (2011) Altered glycosylation in autoimmune diseases. Trends Carbo Res 3: 1–12.
  15. 15. Ryden I, Pahlsson P, Lundblad A, Skogh T (2002) Fucosylation of alpha1-acid glycoprotein (orosomucoid) compared with traditional biochemical markers of inflammation in recent onset rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Chim Acta 317: 221–229.
  16. 16. Raghav SK, Gupta B, Agrawal C, Saroha A, Das RH, et al. (2006) Altered expression and glycosylation of plasma proteins in rheumatoid arthritis. Glycoconj J 23: 167–173.
  17. 17. Higai K, Aoki Y, Azuma Y, Matsumoto K (2005) Glycosylation of site-specific glycans of alpha1-acid glycoprotein and alterations in acute and chronic inflammation. Biochim Biophys Acta 1725: 128–135.
  18. 18. Gornik I, Maravic G, Dumic J, Flogel M, Lauc G (1999) Fucosylation of IgG heavy chains is increased in rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Biochem 32: 605–608.
  19. 19. Malhotra R, Wormald MR, Rudd PM, Fischer PB, Dwek RA, et al. (1995) Glycosylation changes of IgG associated with rheumatoid arthritis can activate complement via the mannose-binding protein. Nat Med 1: 237–243.
  20. 20. Tachibana K, Nakamura S, Wang H, Iwasaki H, Tachibana K, et al. (2006) Elucidation of binding specificity of Jacalin toward O-glycosylated peptides: quantitative analysis by frontal affinity chromatography. Glycobiology 16: 46–53.
  21. 21. Durham M, Regnier FE (2006) Targeted glycoproteomics: serial lectin affinity chromatography in the selection of O-glycosylation sites on proteins from the human blood proteome. J Chromatogr A 1132: 165–73.
  22. 22. Schwientek T, Mandel U, Roth U, Müller S, Hanisch FG (2007) A serial lectin approach to the mucin-type O-glycoproteome of Drosophila melanogaster S2 cells. Proteomics 7: 3264–3277.
  23. 23. Choi-Miura NH (2001) Quantitative measurement of the novel human plasma protein, IHRP, by sandwich ELISA. Biol Pharm Bull 24: 214–217.
  24. 24. Oikawa O, Higuchi T, Yamazaki T, Yamamoto C, Fukuda N, et al. (2007) Evaluation between serum fetuin-A and each parameter of patients on hemodialysis. Clin Exp Nephrol 11: 304–308.
  25. 25. Van den Steen P, Rudd PM, Dwek RA, Opdenakker G (1998) Concepts and principles of O-linked glycosylation. Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol 33: 151–208.
  26. 26. Daniels MA, Hogquist KA, Jameson SC (2002) Sweet ‘n’ sour: the impact of differential glycosylation on T cell responses. Nat Immunol 3: 903–910.
  27. 27. Kirmiz C, Li B, An HJ, Clowers BH, Chew HK, et al. (2007) A serum glycomics approach to breast cancer biomarkers. Mol Cell Proteomics 6: 43–55.
  28. 28. Kabir S (1998) Jacalin: a jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) seed-derived lectin of versatile applications in immunobiological research. J Immunol Methods 212: 193–211.
  29. 29. Tercero JC, az-Maurino T (1988) Affinity chromatography of fibrinogen on Lens culinaris agglutinin immobilized on CNBr-activated sepharose: study of the active groups involved in nonspecific adsorption. Anal Biochem 174: 128–136.
  30. 30. Cai T, Yu P, Monga SP, Mishra B, Mishra L (1998) Identification of mouse itih-4 encoding a glycoprotein with two EF-hand motifs from early embryonic liver. Biochim Biophys Acta 1398: 32–37.
  31. 31. Zhuo L, Kimata K (2008) Structure and function of inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor heavy chains. Connect Tissue Res 49: 311–320.
  32. 32. Song J, Patel M, Rosenzweig CN, Chan-Li Y, Sokoll LJ, et al. (2006) Quantification of fragments of human serum inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor heavy chain 4 by a surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization-based immunoassay. Clin Chem 52: 1045–1053.
  33. 33. Mohamed E, Abdul-Rahman PS, Doustjalali SR, Chen Y, Lim BK, et al. (2008) Lectin-based electrophoretic analysis of the expression of the 35 kDa inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor heavy chain H4 fragment in sera of patients with five different malignancies. Electrophoresis 29: 2645–2650.
  34. 34. Pineiro M, Andres M, Iturralde M, Carmona S, Hirvonen J, et al. (2004) ITIH4 (inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor heavy chain 4) is a new acute-phase protein isolated from cattle during experimental infection. Infect Immun 72: 3777–3782.
  35. 35. Choi-Miura NH, Takahashi K, Yoda M, Saito K, Hori M, et al. (2000) The novel acute phase protein, IHRP, inhibits actin polymerization and phagocytosis of polymorphonuclear cells. Inflamm Res 49: 305–310.
  36. 36. Bhattacharyya S, Siegel ER, Achenbach SJ, Khosla S, Suva LJ (2008) Serum biomarker profile associated with high bone turnover and BMD in postmenopausal women. J Bone Miner Res 23: 1106–1117.
  37. 37. Binkert C, Demetriou M, Sukhu B, Szweras M, Tenenbaum HC, et al. (1999) Regulation of osteogenesis by fetuin. J Biol Chem 274: 28514–28520.
  38. 38. Schafer C, Heiss A, Schwarz A, Westenfeld R, Ketteler M, et al. (2003) The serum protein alpha 2-Heremans-Schmid glycoprotein/fetuin-A is a systemically acting inhibitor of ectopic calcification. J Clin Invest 112: 357–366.
  39. 39. Li W, Zhu S, Li J, Huang Y, Rongrong Z, et al. (2011) A Hepatic Protein, Fetuin-A, Occupies a Protective Role in Lethal Systemic Inflammation. PLoS ONE 6: e16945.
  40. 40. Jersmann HP, Dransfield I, Hart SP (2003) Fetuin/alpha2-HS glycoprotein enhances phagocytosis of apoptotic cells and macropinocytosis by human macrophages. Clin Sci (Lond) 105: 273–278.
  41. 41. Memoli B, De BL, Favia P, Morelli S, Lopez LC, et al. (2007) Fetuin-A gene expression, synthesis and release in primary human hepatocytes cultured in a galactosylated membrane bioreactor. Biomaterials 28: 4836–4844.
  42. 42. El-Shehaby AM, Zakaria A, El-Khatib M, Mostafa N (2010) Association of fetuin-A and cardiac calcification and inflammation levels in hemodialysis patients. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 70: 575–582.
  43. 43. Schauer R (1982) Sialic Acids, Chemistry, Metabolism, and Function. New York: Springer-Verlag.
  44. 44. Varki ARC, Esko J, Freeze H, Hart G, Marth J (1999) Essentials of glycobiology. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press Publications.
  45. 45. Sawada M, Moriya S, Saito S, Shineha R, Satomi S, et al. (2002) Reduced sialidase expression in highly metastatic variants of mouse colon adenocarcinoma 26 and retardation of their metastatic ability by sialidase overexpression. Int J Cancer 97: 180–185.
  46. 46. Xu LX, Zhao MH (2005) Aberrantly glycosylated serum IgA1 are closely associated with pathologic phenotypes of IgA nephropathy. Kidney Int 68: 167–172.
  47. 47. Zhao J, Simeone DM, Heidt D, Anderson MA, Lubman DM (2006) Comparative serum glycoproteomics using lectin selected sialic acid glycoproteins with mass spectrometric analysis: application to pancreatic cancer serum. J Proteome Res 5: 1792–1802.
  48. 48. Tolleshaug H (1984) Intracellular segregation of asialo-transferrin and asialo-fetuin following uptake by the same receptor system in suspended hepatocytes. Biochim Biophys Acta 803: 182–190.
  49. 49. Mackiewicz A (1992) Cytokine, cytokine receptors and glucocorticoid network controlling N-glycosylation of acute phase proteins in vitro. Folia Histochem Cytobiol 30: 165–166.
  50. 50. Przybysz M, Maszczak D, Borysewicz K, Szechinski J, Katnik-Prastowska I (2007) Relative sialylation and fucosylation of synovial and plasma fibronectins in relation to the progression and activity of rheumatoid arthritis. Glycoconj J 24: 543–550.
  51. 51. Kundranda MN, Ray S, Saria M, Friedman D, Matrisian LM, et al. (2004) Annexins expressed on the cell surface serve as receptors for adhesion to immobilized fetuin-A. Biochim Biophys Acta 1693: 111–123.
  52. 52. Arnett FC, Edworthy SM, Bloch DA, McShane DJ, Fries JF, et al. (1988) The American Rheumatism Association 1987 revised criteria for the classification of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 31: 315–324.
  53. 53. Bradford MM (1976) A rapid and sensitive method for the quantitation of microgram quantities of protein utilizing the principle of protein-dye binding. Anal Biochem 72: 248–254.
  54. 54. Julenius K, Mølgaard A, Gupta R, Brunak S (2005) Prediction, conservation analysis and structural characterization of mammalian mucin-type O-glycosylation sites. Glycobiology 15: 153–164.