Glycan-based interactions involving vertebrate sialic-acid-recognizing proteins

Ajit Varki

All cells in nature are covered by a dense and complex array of carbohydrates. Given their prominence on cell surfaces, it is not surprising that these glycans mediate and/or modulate many cellular interactions. Proteins that bind sialic acid, a sugar that is found on the surface of the cell and on secreted proteins in vertebrates, are involved in a broad range of biological processes, including intercellular adhesion, signalling and microbial attachment. Studying the roles of such proteins in vertebrates has improved our understanding of normal physiology, disease and human evolution.