Carbohydrate-specific cell adhesion directly to glycosphingolipids separated on thin-layer chromatography plates

Patti Swank-Hill, Leila K. Needham, Ronald L. Schnaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell surface carbohydrates and complementary carbohydrate receptors may mediate cell-cell recognition and adhesion. We report a method which detects carbohydrate-specific adhesion of intact eukaryotic cells directly to glycosphingolipids separated on thin-layer chromatography plates. Various glycosphingolipids were chromatographed on high-performance silica gel thinlayer chromatography plates, and the plates were coated with a thin film of poly(isobutyl methacrylate) and mounted in a specially designed plexiglass chamber. Metabolically radiolabeled cells were added to the chamber, which was then sealed and gently centrifuged to bring the cells into contact with the surface of the TLC plate. After incubation to allow adhesion to occur, the chamber was inverted and centrifuged to remove nonadherent cells from the plate surface. The plate was removed from the chamber, the adherent cells were fixed in place with glutaraldehyde, and the plate was dried and subjected to autoradiography. Chicken hepatocytes, which have a cell surface receptor for N-acetylglucosamine, adhered only to those areas of the plate to which appropriate glycosphingolipids (having that terminal sugar) had migrated. Cell adhesion was blocked by soluble N-acetylglucosamine (but not by other sugars) and was readily detectable using a variety of developing solvents. Cell adhesion to as little as 8 pmol of the appropriate lipid was readily detected. This method can be used to test glycosphingolipids as cell surface recognition markers for a variety of cell types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 15 1987


  • carbohydrates
  • cell adhesion
  • glycosphingolipids
  • thin-layer chromatography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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