With biochemical and enzymatic treatment of frozen sections of pancreas, we have previously shown that cytoplasmic islet cell antibodies (ICAs) react with carbohydrate determinants of islet cell glycoconjugates. As a first step toward purifying these glycoconjugates, human pancreas tissue was extracted in a mixture of chloroform and methanol, and the glycolipids were obtained by effecting a Folch partition. The protein pellet, lipid fraction, and glycolipid fraction so obtained were assessed for their ability to block the binding of ICAs to frozen sections of human pancreas, the effect being quantitated with a photometer. Only the glycolipid extract could block ICA binding, and blocking was dose dependent. Subfractionation of the glycolipid extract by hydrophobic interaction on C18 cartridges demonstrated that blocking activity resided in the fraction bound and eluted with methanol, consistent with the autoantigen being a glycolipid. Furthermore, the binding of an anti-islet cell ganglioside monoclonal antibody, 3G5, could be blocked with these extracts, whereas the binding of an anti-islet cell protein monoclonal antibody, 4F2, was unaffected. The major gangliosides of the pancreas were seen to be GM3 and GD3 by thin-layer chromatography (TLC). Fractions scraped and eluted from TLC plates were tested for their ability to block ICA binding to pancreatic sections. Neither GM3- nor GD3-containing fractions could block ICA binding; however, a fraction containing minor pancreatic gangliosides (including GM2) of monosialoganglioside mobility was a potent inhibitor of ICA binding to pancreas sections. TLC of a chloroform-methanol extract of human islets demonstrated that islets differentially express monosialogangliosides (especially GM2). These findings suggest that the islet cell autoantigen in frozen sections is a glycolipid migrating with a mobility characteristic of a monosialoganglioside.

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