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Glycobiology. 2003 Jun;13(6):29R-40R. Epub 2003 Mar 6.

Sulfated fucans, fresh perspectives: structures, functions, and biological properties of sulfated fucans and an overview of enzymes active toward this class of polysaccharide.

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Department of Chemistry, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Arrheniusplan 8, P.O. Box 7015, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.


Sulfated fucans, frequently referred to simply as fucans, constitute a class of polysaccharides first isolated in 1913. For many years fucans were regarded only as a potential source of l-fucose, although their anticoagulant activity was known. Even as the potent effects of fucans on physiological systems have become better characterized, structural studies have lagged behind. Recently the search for new drugs has raised increased interest in sulfated fucans. In the past few years, several structures of algal and invertebrate fucans have been solved, and many aspects of their biological activity have been elucidated. From this work emerges a more interesting picture of this class of polysaccharides than was previously suspected. The availability of purified fucans and fucan fractions with simple, but varied structures, in conjunction with the development of new enzymatic tools, demonstrate that the biological properties of sulfated fucans are not only a simple function of their charge density but also are determined by detailed structural features.

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