Glycobiology simplified: Diverse roles of glycan recognition in inflammation

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72 Scopus citations


Glycans and complementary glycan-binding proteins are essential components in the language of cell-cell interactions in immunity. The study of glycan function is the purview of glycobiology, which has often been presened as an unusually complex discipline. In fact, the human glycome, composed of all of its glycans, is built primarily from only 9 building blocks that are combined by enzymes (writers) with specific and limited biosynthetic capabilities into a tractable and increasingly accessible number of potential glycan patterns that are functionally read by several dozen human glycan-binding proteins (readers). Nowhere is the importance of glycan recognition better understood than in infection and immunity, and knowledge in this area has already led to glycan mimetic anti-infective and anti-inflammatory drugs. This review includes a brief tutorial on human glycobiology and a limited number of specific examples of glycanbinding protein-glycan interactions that initiate and regulate inflammation. Examples include representatives from different glycan-binding protein families, including the C-type lectins (E-selectin, P-selectin, dectin-1, and dectin-2), sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectins (sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-like lectins 8 and 9), galectins (galectin-1, galectin-3, and galectin-9), as well as hyaluronic acid-binding proteins. As glycoscience technologies advance, opportunities for enhanced understanding of glycans and their roles in leukocyte cell biology provide increasing opportunities for discovery and therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-838
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016


  • Fucose
  • Galectin
  • Lectin
  • Selectin
  • Sialic acid
  • Siglec

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology


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