Asialo-transferrin: biochemical aspects and association with alcohol abuse investigation

Veronica Paterlini, Nadia Maria Porpiglia, Elio Franco De Palo, Franco Tagliaro
Alcohol 2019 March 16
Asialo-human transferrin (asialo-hTf) is a glycoform of the human serum protein transferrin characterized by the lack of the sialic acid (SA) terminal unit. It is known that glycosylation micro-heterogeneity and the presence of SA are strongly involved in protein functioning and patho-physiological activities. Some hTf glycoforms are valuable biomarkers for the detection of both genetic defects of glycosylation and/or sialoform distribution changes. The determination of the carbohydrate deficient transferrin (CDT) glycoforms is currently a widely employed method for the diagnosis of chronic alcohol abuse. The physiological meaning of asialo-hTf is still unclear, despite its important biological implications. The current knowledge suggests that asialo-hTf may be involved in the iron transport and release regulation at hepatic level, which, consequently, could strongly be affected by alcohol consumption. For these reasons, a deeper understanding of asialo-hTf structure and physiological role is required and an improved method of its analysis would favour the detection of both chronic abuse and other habits of alcohol intake and/or misuse. Thus, suitable analytical methods possessing higher sensitivity and specificity in comparison with the currently available techniques are certainly recommended. The present review summarizes the studies on asialo-hTf structure, roles and detection techniques mainly in relation to its possible use as a potentially additional useful biomarker of alcohol abuse and underlines its prospective value as a forensic and diagnostic tool.

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