A complex mixture of diverse oligosaccharides related to the carbohydrates in glycoconjugates involved in various biological events is found in animal milk/colostrum and has been challenging targets for separation and structural studies. In the current study, we isolated oligosaccharides having high molecular masses (MW ∼ 3800) from the milk samples of bearded and hooded seals and analyzed their structures by off-line normal-phase-high-performance liquid chromatography-matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight (NP-HPLC-MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry (MS) by combination with sequential exoglycosidase digestion. Initially, a mixture of oligosaccharides from the seal milk was reductively aminated with 2-aminobenzoic acid and analyzed by a combination of HPLC and MALDI-TOF MS. From MS data, these oligosaccharides contained different numbers of lactosamine units attached to the nonreducing lactose (Galβ1-4Glc) and fucose residue. The isolated oligosaccharides were sequentially digested with exoglycosidases and characterized by MALDI-TOF MS. The data revealed that oligosaccharides from both seal species were composed from lacto-N-neohexaose (LNnH, Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-6[Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-3]Galβ1-4Glc) as the common core structure, and most of them contained Fucα1-2 residues at the nonreducing ends. Furthermore, the oligosaccharides from both samples contained multibranched oligosaccharides having two Galβ1-4GlcNAc (N-acetyllactosamine, LacNAc) residues on the Galβ1-4GlcNAcβ1-3 branch or both branches of LNnH. Elongation of the chains was observed at 3-OH positions of Gal residues, but most of the internal Gal residues were also substituted with an N-acetyllactosamine at the 6-OH position.
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