The sweet mysteries of the nervous system
Stem cells can be distinguished on the basis of sugar residues
RUB-researchers develop new antibody for cell labelling
Unexpected sugar diversity
Antibodies that recognise the LewisX sugar residue are used routinely to identify so-called neural stem cells from which the various cells of the nervous system originate. Prof. Faissner’s team has now shown that the designation “LewisX” does not just cover a single sugar motif, but a whole range of different sugar residues. Different types of neural stem cells are equipped with individual combinations of LewisX sugar residues on their cell surface. The new Bochum antibody 5750 recognises a different LewisX sugar residue to the antibodies previously used. “This sugar diversity could also be interesting for cancer diagnosis” Prof. Faissner explained, “because LewisX sugars have also been detected on tumour cells”.
Identifying properties of stem cells
With the aid of the new antibody 5750, certain types of neural stem cells can be isolated from a mixture of different cell types. The aim of Prof. Faissner’s research group is now to examine the properties of the stem cells which carry the LewisX sugar residues. The researchers have already found out that the LewisX motif on the cell surface changes when the stem cells develop further – for example into oligodendrocytes, which form the insulation layer of the nerve cells, or into nerve cells themselves.
Hennen E, Czopka T, Faissner A (2011) Structurally Distinct LewisX Glycans Distinguish Subpopulations of Neural Stem/Progenitor Cells. The Journal of Biological Chemistry 286: 16321-16331. doi 10.1074/jbc.M110.201095