• concanavalin A-non-reactive species;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • N-acetylglucosaminyl-transferase III;
  • transferrin.

N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferase III (GnT III) catalyses the addition of N-acetylglucosamine through a β 1–4 linkage to the mannose of the trimannosyl core, resulting in conversion of the concanavalin A (Con A)-reactive glycan into a non-reactive state. In this study, we measured GnT III activity to evaluate its diagnostic efficacy and its therapeutic effect on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Concanavalin A-non-reactive fraction of serum transferrin (Tf) was also determined since the sugar chains of Tf are one of the possible candidates for the product of GnT III. Serum samples (159) were used from patients with HCC (89), liver cirrhosis (30), chronic hepatitis (19), alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) producing gastric carcinoma metastatic to the liver (five) and healthy controls (16). N-Acetyl-glucosaminyltransferase III activity was determined by high performance liquid chromatography. The reactivity of serum Tf to Con A was also analysed in 21 paired HCC samples before and after treatment by crossed immuno-affinoelectrophoresis. N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferase III activity from the HCC group (153 ± 72 pmol/mL/h) was significantly higher than that from liver cirrhosis (99 ± 67 pmol/mL per h), chronic hepatitis (84 ± 39pmol/mL per h) and the normal controls (62 ± 16pmol/mL per h). N-Acetylgiucosaminyltransferase III activity of 21 patients with HCC was significantly reduced after treatment such as transcatheter arterial chemoembolization and/or percutaneous ethanol infection therapy, (123 ± 77 to 100 ± 60pmol/mL per h). Commensurate decreases of AFP and des-γ-carboxy prothrombin with GnT III activity were also observed after treatment. The Con A-non-reactive fraction (n= 21; 6.4 ± 2.3%) in patients with HCC after treatment was significantly lower than before (8.2 ± 2.4%). The present study suggests that GnT III activity is a possible and in the diagnosis and evaluation of HCC, especially when other tumour markers are negative.