Important discoveries in the history of glycobiology

Year(s)Primary scientist(s)DiscoveriesRelevant chaptersa
1876J.L.W. Thudichumglycosphingolipids (cerebrosides), sphingomyelin and sphingosine10
1888H. Stillmarklectins as hemagglutinins26, 28
1891H.E. Fischerstereoisomeric structure of glucose and other monosaccharides2
1900K. Landsteinerhuman ABO blood groups as transfusion barriers5, 13
1909P.A. Levenestructure of ribose in RNA1
1916J. MacLeanisolation of heparin as an anticoagulant16
1925P.A. Levenecharacterization of chondroitin sulfate and “mucoitin sulfate” (later, hyaluronan)15, 16
1929P.A. Levenestructure of 2-deoxyribose in DNA1
1929W.N. Haworthpyranose and furanose ring structures of monosaccharides2
1934K. Meyerhyaluronan and hyaluronidase15
1934–1938G. Blix, E. Klenksialic acids14
1936C.F. Cori, G.T. Coriglucose-1-phosphate as an intermediate in glycogen biosynthesis17
1942–1946G.K. Hirst, F.M. Burnethemagglutination of influenza virus and “receptor-destroying enzyme”14
1942E. Klenk, G. Blixgangliosides in brain10, 14
1946Z. Dischecolorimetric determination of deoxypentoses and other carbohydrates2
1948–1950E. Jorpes, S. Gardelloccurrence of N-sulfates in heparin and identification of heparan sulfate16
1949L.F. Leloirnucleotide sugars and their role in the biosynthesis of glycans4
1950Karl Schmidisolation of α1-acid glycoprotein (orosomucoid), a major serum glycoprotein
1952W.T. Morgan, W.M. Watkinscarbohydrate determinants of ABO blood group types13
1952E.A. Kabatrelationship of ABO to Lewis blood groups and secretor vs. nonsecretor status13
1952A. Gottschalksialic acid as the receptor for influenza virus14
1952T. Yamakawagloboside, the major glycosphingolipid of the erythrocyte membrane10
1956–1963M.R.J. Salton, J.M. Ghuysen, R.W. Jeanloz, N. Sharon, H.M. Flowersbacterial peptidoglycan backbone structure
major structural polysaccharides in nature (chitin, cellulose, and peptidoglycan) are β1-4-linked throughout
1957P.W. Robbins, F. Lipmannbiosynthesis and characterization of PAPS, the donor for glycan sulfation4, 16
1957H. Faillard, E. Klenkcrystallization of N-acetylneuraminic acid as product of influenza virus receptor-destroying enzyme (RDE) (“neuraminidase”)14
1957–1963J. Strominger, J.T. Park, H.R. Perkins, H.J. Rogersmechanism of peptidoglycan biosynthesis and site of penicillin action20
1958H. Muir“mucopolysaccharides” are covalently attached to proteins via serine16
1960D.C. Comb, S. Rosemanstructure and enzymatic synthesis of CMP-N-acetylneuraminic acid4, 14
1960–1965O. Westphal, O. Lüderitz, H. Nikaido, P.W. Robbinsstructure of lipopolysaccharides and endotoxin glycans20
1960–1970R. Jeanloz, K. Meyer, A. Dorfmanstructural studies of glycosaminoglycans15, 16
1961S. Roseman, L. Warrenbiosynthesis of sialic acid4, 14
1961–1965G.E. PaladeER-Golgi pathway for glycoprotein biosynthesis and secretion3
1962A. Neuberger, R. Marshall, I. Yamashina, L.W. CunninghamGlcNAc-Asn as the first defined carbohydrate-peptide linkage8
1962W.M. Watkins, W.Z. Hassidenzymatic synthesis of lactose from UDP-galactose and glucose4
1962J.A. Cifonelli, J. Ludowieg, A. Dorfmaniduronic acid as a constituent of heparin16
1962–1966L. Roden, U. Lindahlidentification of tetrasaccharide linking glycosaminoglycans to protein core of proteoglycans16
1962E.H. Eylar, R.W. Jeanlozdemonstration of the presence of N-acetyllactosamine in α1-acid glycoprotein13
1963L. Svennerholmanalysis and nomenclature of gangliosides10
1963D. Hamerman, J. Sandsoncovalent cross-linkage between hyaluronan and inter-α-trypsin inhibitor15
1963–1964B. Anderson, K. Meyer, V.P. Bhavanandan, A. Gottschalkβ-elimination of Ser/Thr-O-linked glycans9
1963–1965R. Kuhn, H. Wiegandtstructure of GM1 and other brain gangliosides10
1963–1967B.L. Horecker, P.W. Robbins, H. Nakaido, M.J. Osbornlipid-linked intermediates in bacterial lipopolysaccharide and peptidoglycan biosynthesis20
1964V. GinsburgGDP-fucose and its biosynthesis from GDP-mannose4
1964B. Gesner, V. Ginsburgglycans control the migration of leukocytes to target organs26
1965L.W. Cunninghammicroheterogeneity of glycoprotein glycans2, 8, 9
1965–1966R.O. Bradyglucocerebrosidase is the enzyme deficient in Gaucher’s disease41
1965–1975J.E. Silbert, U. Lindahlcell-free biosynthesis of heparin and chondroitin sulfate16
1965–1975W. Pigmantandem repeat amino acid sequences with Ser or Thr as O-glycosylation sites in mucins9
1966M. Neutra, C. Leblondrole of Golgi apparatus in protein glycosylation3
1966–1969B. Lindberg, S. Hakomorirefinement of methylation analysis for determination of glycan linkages47
1966–1976R. Schauermultiple modifications of sialic acids in nature, their biosynthesis, and degradation14
1967L. Rodén, L.-Å. Franssonsemonstration of a copolymeric structure for dermatan sulfate16
1967R.D. MarshallN-glycosylation occurs only at asparagine residues in the sequence motif Asn-X-Ser/Thr8
1968J.A. Cifonellidescription of the domain structure of heparan sulfate16
1968R.L. Hill, K. Brewα-lactalbumin as a modifier of galactosyltransferase specificity5
1969L. Warren, M.C. Glick, P.W. Robbinsincreased size of N-glycans in malignantly transformed cells8, 44
1969R.J. Winzlerstructures of O-glycans from erythrocyte membranes9
1969–1974V.C. Hascall, S.W. Sajdera, H. Muir, D. Heinegård, T. Hardinghamhyaluronan-proteoglycan interactions in cartilage16, 17
1969H. Tuppy, P. Meindlsynthesis of 2-deoxy-2,3-didehydro-Neu5Ac as viral sialidase inhibitor14
1968–1970E. Neufeldidentification of lysosomal enzyme deficiencies in the mucopolysaccharidoses41
1969G. Ashwell, A. Morellglycans can control the lifetime of glycoproteins in blood circulation26
1970K.O. Lloyd, J. Porath, I.J. Goldsteinuse of lectins for affinity purification of glycoproteins45
1971–1973L.F. Leloirdolichylphosphosugars are intermediates in protein N-glycosylation4, 8
1971–1975P. Kraemer, J.E. Silbertheparan sulfate as a common constituent of vertebrate cell surfaces16
1971–1980B. Toolehyaluronan in differentiation, morphogenesis, and development15
1972–1982S. Hakomorilacto- and globo-series glycosphingolipids as developmentally regulated and tumor-associated antigens10, 44
1972J.F.G. Vliegentharthigh-field proton NMR spectroscopy for structural analysis of glycans2
1973W.E. van Heyningenglycosphingolipids are receptors for bacterial toxins39
1973J. Montreuil, R.G. Spiro, R. Kornfelda common pentasaccharide core structure of all N-glycans8
1974C.E. Balloustructure of yeast mannans and generation of yeast mannan mutants8, 46
1975V.I. Teichbergthe first galectin33
1975V.T. Marchesiprimary structure of glycophorin, the first known transmembrane glycoprotein3, 8, 9
1975–1980A. KobataN- and O-glycan structural elucidation using multiple convergent techniques2, 8, 9
1975–1980P. Stanley, S. Kornfeld, R.C. Hugheslectin-resistant cell lines with glycosylation defects46
1977W.J. LennarzAsn-X-Ser/Thr necessary and sufficient for lipid-mediated N-glycosylation8
1977I. Ofek, D. Mirelman, N. Sharoncell-surface glycans as attachment sites for infectious bacteria39
1977–1978S. Kornfeld, P.W. Robbinsbiosynthesis and processing of intermediates of N-glycans in protein glycosylation8
1977R.L. Hill, R. Barkerfirst purification of a glycosyltransferase involved in protein glycosylation5, 8
1978C. Svanborgglycosphingolipids as receptors for bacterial adhesion10, 39
1979–1982E. Neufeld, S. Kornfeld, K. Von Figura, W. Slythe mannose-6-phosphate pathway for lysosomal enzyme trafficking30
1980–1983F.A. Troy, J. Finne, S. Inoue, Y. Inouestructure of polysialic acids in bacteria and vertebrates14
1980H. Schachterrole of glycosyltransferases in N- and O-glycan branching5, 8
1980–1982V.N. Reinhold, A. Dell, A.L. Burlingamemass spectrometry for structural analysis of glycans47, 48
1980–1985S. Hakomori, Y. Nagaiglycosphingolipids as modulators of transmembrane signaling10
1981–1985M.J. Ferguson, I. Silman, M. Lowstructural definition of glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchors11
1982U. Lindahl, R.D. Rosenbergspecific sulfated heparin pentasaccharide sequence recognized by antithrombin16, 35
1982C. Hirschberg, R. Fleischertransport of sugar nucleotides into the Golgi apparatus3, 14
1984G. Hartintracellular protein glycosylation by O-GlcNAc18
1984J. Jaekendescription of “carbohydrate-deficient glycoprotein syndromes”42
1985M. Klagsbrun, D. Gospodarowiczdiscovery of heparin–FGF interactions35
1986W.J. Whelanglycogen is a glycoprotein synthesized on a glycogenin primer17
1986J.U. Baenzigerstructures of sulfated N-glycans of pituitary hormones13, 28
1986Y. Inoue, S. Inouediscovery of 2-keto-3-deoxynononic acid (Kdn) in rainbow trout eggs14
1986P.K. Qasba, J. Shaper, N. Shapercloning of first animal glycosyltransferase5
1987Y-C. Leehigh-performance anion-exchange chromatography of oligosaccharides with pulsed amperometric detection (HPAEC-PAD)47

This time line of events is deliberately terminated about 20 years ago, on the assumption that it can take a long time to be certain that a particular discovery has had a major impact on the field. Historical details about several of these discoveries can be found in the “Classics” series of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (see http://www​, click on “Classic Articles,” and search by author name).


Indicates main chapter(s) of this book in which the relevant topics are covered.

From: Chapter 1, Historical Background and Overview

Cover of Essentials of Glycobiology
Essentials of Glycobiology. 2nd edition.
Varki A, Cummings RD, Esko JD, et al., editors.
Cold Spring Harbor (NY): Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 2009.
Copyright © 2009, The Consortium of Glycobiology Editors, La Jolla, California.

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