In a study of 151 normal, healthy individuals of both sexes varying in age from 1-70 yr, it was found that the relative incidence of agalactosyl (with both outer arms terminating in N-acetylglucosamine) N-linked oligosaccharides on total serum IgG decreased from birth to a minimum (at 25 yr of age) and then increased with age. The relative incidence of digalactosyl structures varied inversely to this, and the relative incidence of monogalactosyl structures was constant. Galactosylation of the N-linked oligosaccharides of the human serum IgG of normal individuals is therefore an age-related molecular parameter. Several reports have suggested that rheumatoid arthritis is associated with a decreased galactosylation of serum IgG (3-5). The normal variation in galactosylation with age as described here allows a true assessment of disease-associated changes in this parameter, and raises the possibility that one of the lesions in rheumatoid arthritis is an accelerated aging of the immune system. In addition, heterogeneity within age groups may be due to intrinsic differences in genetic endowment, or may reflect the impact of extrinsic factors (8).

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