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  1. Akira Kobata

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.200200015

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Kobata, A. 2006. Glycobiology. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Tokyo, Japan

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Many proteins produced by multicellular organisms contain covalently linked sugar chains and are called glycoproteins. Because of the difficulties associated with the structural study of the sugar chains of glycoproteins, however, the functional aspects of the sugar moieties of glycoproteins were ignored during the long history of protein research.

In addition to the structural multiplicity, another factor makes the structural study of the sugar chains of glycoproteins difficult. Many glycoproteins contain more than one sugar chain in one molecule. Even in the case of a glycoprotein with only one sugar chain, there is widespread microheterogeneity of sugar chain structure because the absence of a template in the biosynthetic machinery of sugar chains makes possible the formation of incomplete chains. Therefore, each sugar chain must be separated before it can be subjected to structural study.

Interest in glycoconjugate research was stimulated early in the 1960s by elucidation of the antigenic determinants of human blood types and the molecular basis of antigenic conversion of bacteria. This research area has further attracted the interest of biologists, because many studies on cell biology have suggested the possibility that the sugar chains of glycoproteins and glycolipids play an important role as signals of cell-to-cell recognition, which are crucial in multicellular organisms.

Development of gene technology in recent years has also accelerated the functional study of glycoprotein sugar chains. This technology has opened a way to obtaining substantial amounts of bioactive proteins, which are useful but occur in small amounts in the animal body. However, many proteins produced by animal cells occur as glycoproteins. Since many nonglycosylated recombinant proteins, obtained by using bacterial hosts, do not express the expected biological activities, importance of the study of their sugar moieties has been noticed. “Glycobiology” is a scientific field established on the basis of the possibility of elucidating the biological information in the sugar chains of glycoconjugates and using these data to increase our knowledge of biology.


  • Anomers;
  • Fc Receptor;
  • Furanose;
  • Glycoconjugates;
  • Glycohormones;
  • Glycon and Aglycon;
  • Lectin;
  • Oligosaccharide Alcohols;
  • Protein C;
  • Pyranose