Alpha-(2----8)-polysialic acid immunoreactivity in voltage-sensitive sodium channel of eel electric organ.

W. M. James, W. S. Agnew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The voltage-sensitive sodium channel from eel electroplax is formed of a polypeptide of 208,321 Da, to which is attached ca. 85 kDa of carbohydrate. Sialic acid is a prominent constituent, contributing ca. 113 negative charges to the protein surface. We here demonstrate that antibodies raised against the bacterial antigen alpha-(2----8)-polysialic acid, specific for polymers of ten or more consecutive sialic acid residues, react specifically and with high affinity to the electroplax sodium channel. In extracts of electroplax membranes, the sodium channel is the only protein that demonstrates this immunoreactivity, suggesting the presence of a polysialosyl-sialyltransferase specifically committed to this unique post-translational modification of the sodium channel. Polysialic acid is rare in vertebrates, having previously been found only associated with neural-cell adhesion molecules, present in the developing neuromuscular system. The other prominent source is the capsular polysaccharide of highly pathogenic meningitis bacteria. Antibodies to the bacterial antigen thus provide highly specific affinity markers for the sodium channel. The high avidity of these antibodies and the ratio of sialic acid residues to consensus glycosylation sites suggest that the terminal chains are well over ten sialosyl residues in length, potentially extending 10-30 nm into the extracellular environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing papers of a Biological character. Royal Society (Great Britain)
Issue number1287
StatePublished - Jul 22 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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