Terminal galactose residues on transferrin are increased in midlife adults compared to young adults


Correspondence: Professor Helen R. Griffiths, Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, United Kingdom

E-mail: h.r.griffiths@aston.ac.uk

Fax: +44 (0)121 204 5142


Humans undergo biological ageing at different rates. This associates with functional decline in a number of physiological systems and increasing incidence of age-related pathologies. The discovery of robust biomarkers of ageing could be used to identify early divergence from a path of healthy ageing towards age-related disease. In the present study, we undertook proteomic analysis of plasma from healthy young men (mean age = 21.4 ± 1.5 years) and healthy midlife men (mean age = 57.0 ± 1.6 years). We identified 12 spots including transferrin, complement C3b and transthyretin that differed in abundance between the age groups. Transferrin spots showed an acidic pI shift in older males. Sandwich ELISAs were used to investigate the changes further. C3b levels were below the level of detection by ELISA and plasma concentrations of total transferrin or transthyretin were not different between the age groups studied here. However, analysis of transferrin N-glycan structures showed an increase in terminal galactose residues in older men, suggesting that the loss of terminal N-acetyl neuraminic acid residues contributes to the more acid pI of transferrin spots observed with age. Terminal galactosylation of transferrin may be a biomarker of healthy ageing and is now under investigation in the MARK-AGE study.