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G Kovalevskaya, S Birken, T Kakuma, and JF O'Connor

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) exhibits molecular heterogeneity in both its protein and carbohydrate moieties. This communication describes changes in hCG isoforms detected directly in clinical samples. These isoforms, quantified in blood or urine specimens, show a progression of change throughout normal pregnancy. Early pregnancy produces a type of hCG that resembles, in terms of immunoreactivity, a major form of hCG excreted in choriocarcinoma. The isoforms predominate for the first 5-6 weeks of gestation and then diminish, being replaced with the hCG isoforms which predominate throughout the remainder of pregnancy. The alteration in hCG isoform content occurs in both blood and urine. The progression of isoforms is best delineated by calculating the change in the ratio of the two forms, as many hCG assays either do not detect or fail to discriminate among these isoforms. An analogous pattern of hCG isoforms was observed in patients with in vitro fertilization pregnancies. hCG isolated from the pituitary displayed binding characteristics similar to those of the hCG derived from normal pregnancy urine. The early pregnancy hCG isoforms appear to have a differential expression in normal pregnancy as opposed to pregnancies which will not carry to term, suggesting that a determination of the relative balance of hCG isoforms may have diagnostic application in predicting pregnancy outcome.

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G Kovalevskaya, S Birken, T Kakuma, N Ozaki, M Sauer, S Lindheim, M Cohen, A Kelly, J Schlatterer, and JF O'Connor

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) glycoforms change as pregnancy progresses. We have developed an antibody (B152) which can measure a hyperglycosylated early pregnancy isoform of hCG. This putative hyperglycosylated form of hCG arises very early in pregnancies and is rapidly replaced by an isoform that predominates for the remainder of the pregnancy. The profiles of these hCG glycoforms are measured as a ratio of values of two immunometric assays. The profiles of these ratios differ between pregnancies which persist and those which will experience early failure. In this report, daily urine hCG isoform ratios from donor eggs (no exogenous hCG pretreatment), in vitro fertilization pregnancies were profiled and analyzed from the first day following embryo transfer (ET). Significant differences were found between continuing pregnancy and pregnancy loss throughout days 5-20 post-ET. When hCG isoform ratios were analyzed from the first day of detectable hCG, pregnancy loss could be predicted in the case of a single fetus both during the 5- to 10-day time segment (P=0.018) and the 10- to 15-day time segment (P=0.045). When single and multiple fetus pregnancies were analyzed together significance was approached in the 10- to 15-day time period (P=0.058). In a second population of pregnant women who conceived naturally, in whom urine samples were collected at approximately weekly intervals to either term birth or clinical spontaneous abortion, the ratio could discriminate between miscarriages and normal term pregnancies (P=0.043). In later pregnancy, the ratio of hCG isoforms declined more rapidly in miscarriages than in term pregnancy. Antibody B152 was produced using a choriocarcinoma-derived hCG (C5), which was hyperglycosylated at both N- and O-linked sites and was 100% nicked at position beta(47-48). Western blot analyses supported the assay results showing that early pregnancy urine does not contain nicked C5-like hCG. Also, the early pregnancy hCG appeared to be the same size as later pregnancy hCG as judged by SDS gel electrophoresis. A series of Western blot analyses and immunoassays conducted with the samples either non-reduced or reduced showed that B152 is directed to a linear epitope located in the COOH-terminal peptide region of the beta subunit. This indicated that only the O-glycan groups and not the N-linked glycans are part of the antibody epitope.