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Trends Mol Med. 2008 Aug;14(8):351-60. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2008.06.002. Epub 2008 Jul 6.

Sialic acids in human health and disease.

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  • 1Glycobiology Research and Training Center, Departments of Medicine and Cellular & Molecular Medicine, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0687, USA. a1varki@ucsd.edu


The surfaces of all vertebrate cells are decorated with a dense and complex array of sugar chains, which are mostly attached to proteins and lipids. Most soluble secreted proteins are also similarly decorated with such glycans. Sialic acids are a diverse family of sugar units with a nine-carbon backbone that are typically found attached to the outermost ends of these chains. Given their location and ubiquitous distribution, sialic acids can mediate or modulate a wide variety of physiological and pathological processes. This review considers some examples of their established and newly emerging roles in aspects of human physiology and disease.

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