The expression of major carbohydrate antigens carried by polylactosaminyl chains in human erythroleukemia cell lines, K562 and HEL, was investigated by applying monoclonal antibodies recognizing specific carbohydrate determinants. The two cell lines showed common differences in their glycolipid compositions: (1) the presence of significant amounts of ganglio-series glycolipids, which are absent in normal erythrocytes; and (2) a remarkable reduction in the amount of globo-series glycolipids, which are the major glycolipids in normal human erythrocytes. A variety of differences were also detected in the carbohydrate antigens carried by lacto-series glycolipids and glycoproteins having related carbohydrate chains. K562 cells were i+H- X+, with a minor population of I+ cells. HEL cells were I-i+H+X-. The presence of the I+ population in K562 cells is particularly noteworthy, since I-antigen is characteristic of adult mature erythrocytes and is absent in most human leukemic cell lines. Several clones showing I+, I+/-i+/-, or I-i+ specificities were isolated from K562 cells by cloning in either methylcellulose media or limiting dilution, and I+ and I- cells were sorted by FACS fluorometer. HEL cells and these K562 clones provide a useful experimental model for studying the biologic significance and enzymatic control in expression of cell surface polylactosamines.

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