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Glycobiology. 2003 Jul;13(7):41R-53R. Epub 2003 Mar 19.

Fucose: biosynthesis and biological function in mammals.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Michigan Medical School, MSRB I, room 3510, 1150 W. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0650, USA. beckerd@umich.edu


Fucose is a deoxyhexose that is present in a wide variety of organisms. In mammals, fucose-containing glycans have important roles in blood transfusion reactions, selectin-mediated leukocyte-endothelial adhesion, host-microbe interactions, and numerous ontogenic events, including signaling events by the Notch receptor family. Alterations in the expression of fucosylated oligosaccharides have also been observed in several pathological processes, including cancer and atherosclerosis. Fucose deficiency is accompanied by a complex set of phenotypes both in humans with leukocyte adhesion deficiency type II (LAD II; also known as congenital disorder of glycosylation type IIc) and in a recently generated strain of mice with a conditional defect in fucosylated glycan expression. Fucosylated glycans are constructed by fucosyltransferases, which require the substrate GDP-fucose. Two pathways for the synthesis of GDP-fucose operate in mammalian cells, the GDP-mannose-dependent de novo pathway and the free fucose-dependent salvage pathway. In this review, we focus on the biological functions of mammalian fucosylated glycans and the biosynthetic processes leading to formation of the fucosylated glycan precursor GDP-fucose.

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