Comparative studies of the N-linked carbohydrate chains of human myeloma proteins of the IgA1 and IgA2 subclasses were performed. The N-linked carbohydrate chains were released by hydrazinolysis from the polypeptide backbone, converted to radioactive oligosaccharides by sodium borotritide reduction after N-acetylation and separated into one neutral and two acidic fractions by paper electrophoresis. The acidic oligosaccharides were completely converted to neutral oligosaccharides by sialidase treatment, indicating that they were sialyl derivatives. The neutral and sialidase-treated acidic oligosaccharides were further fractionated by Bio-Gel P-4 column chromatography. Structural studies of each oligosaccharide by sequential exoglycosidase digestion and methylation analysis revealed that human myeloma IgA proteins contained significant amounts of biantennary complex-type carbohydrate chains in addition to a small amount of the high mannose-type. The results indicated that the oligosaccharide structures of human IgA1 and IgA2 display a high degree of heterogeneity not only in the number of carbohydrate chains, but also in their composition. © 1991.