The four essential building blocks of cells are proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and glycans. Also referred to as carbohydrates, glycans are composed of saccharides that are typically linked to lipids and proteins in the secretory pathway. Glycans are highly abundant and diverse biopolymers, yet their functions have remained relatively obscure. This is changing with the advent of genetic reagents and techniques that in the past decade have uncovered many essential roles of specific glycan linkages in living organisms. Glycans appear to modulate biological processes in the development and function of multiple physiologic systems, in part by regulating protein-protein and cell-cell interactions. Moreover, dysregulation of glycan synthesis represents the etiology for a growing number of human genetic diseases. The study of glycans, known as glycobiology, has entered an era of renaissance that coincides with the acquisition of complete genome sequences for multiple organisms and an increased focus upon how posttranslational modifications to protein contribute to the complexity of events mediating normal and disease physiology. Glycan production and modification comprise an estimated 1% of genes in the mammalian genome. Many of these genes encode enzymes termed glycosyltransferases and glycosidases that reside in the Golgi apparatus where they play the major role in constructing the glycan repertoire that is found at the cell surface and among extracellular compartments. We present a review of the recently established functions of glycan structures in the context of mammalian genetic studies focused upon the mouse and human species.

T. Hager: (1)


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error