Methods: Plant lectins, including Maackia amurensis lectin II (MAL), binding to α-2,3 linked sialic acids and Sambucus nigra (SNA), α-2,6 sialic acids, were used in flow cytometry and western blot of erythrocyte surface membrane. N-glycomics mass spectrometry determines glycan structures. Donors varying in age and hyperglycemia, as indicated by HbA1c were analysed.
Results: Erythrocyte surface sialic acids have no significant associations with donor age. A combination of storage and cellular aging produces a specific loss of α-2,6 sialic acids. By contrast, erythrocyte surface terminal fucoses increase significantly with donor age. In order to determine which aspects of aging are important in determining this change, we investigated whether this novel human aging biomarker is associated with higher plasma glucose values, assessed by glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. Fucose levels were associated with HbA1c levels, but not ROS generation.
Conclusion: Our study identifies novel glycan-based biomarkers for human aging and disease. The simplicity of lectin-based assays provide an attractive cellular tool to study aging and disease processes.