Oligosaccharides play a crucial role in many of the recognition, signaling, and adhesion events that take place at the surface of cells. Abnormalities in the synthesis or presentation of these carbohydrates can lead to misfolded and inactive proteins, as well as to several debilitating disease states. However, their diverse structures, which are the key to their function, have hampered studies by biologists and chemists alike. This review presents an overview of techniques for examining and manipulating cell surface oligosaccharides through genetic, enzymatic, and chemical strategies.


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