Efforts in both structural and biological studies of sulfated polysaccharides from marine organisms have increased significantly over the last 10 years. Marine invertebrates have been demonstrated to be a source of glycans with particularly well-defined chemical structures, although ordered structural patterns can also be found occasionally in algal sources such as red seaweeds. Clear and regular structural features are essential for a good understanding of the biological activities of these marine homopolysaccharides of which sulfated fucans and sulfated galactans are the most studied. Herein, the main structural features (sugar type, sulfation and glycosylation sites, and orientational binding preferences) of both sulfated fucans and galactans are individually reviewed with regard to their specific contributions to two frequently described biological functions: the acrosome reaction (a physiological event of sea-urchin fertilization), and the anticoagulant and antithrombotic activities (an alternative and highly desirable pharmacological application). © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 91: 601–609, 2009.
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