In addition to proteins, glycolipids can be targets of antibody responses and contribute to host–pathogen interaction. Following the structural analysis of Ascaris lumbricoides-derived glycolipids, the antibody responses of a group of children with no, light and heavy infections were analysed. The role of the phosphorylcholine moiety, present on Ascaris glycoproteins and glycolipids, in antibody reactivity of these infected individuals was determined.
Children carrying heavy infections showed highest IgG reactivity to glycolipids compared to lightly or non-infected children. Substantial IgG antibody reactivity to both (glyco)proteins and glycolipids was found to be directed to the phosphorylcholine moiety as determined by either removal of this group or a competition assay. This was most pronounced for glycolipids, where removal of the phosphorylcholine moieties by hydrofluoric acid treatment abrogated IgG antibody reactivity. Measurement of IgG4 and IgE isotypes showed no IgG4 reactivity to Ascaris glycolipids, but raised IgE responses were detected in subjects with light or no Ascaris infections, suggesting that IgE responses to glycolipids may play a role in controlling parasite burden. Differences found in antibody profiles to glycolipids and (glyco)proteins, indicate that these different classes of compounds may have distinct roles in shaping of and interacting with humoral immune responses.