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Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2006;8:181-231.

Glycomics approach to structure-function relationships of glycosaminoglycans.

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Biological Engineering Division, Center for Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Extracellular modulation of phenotype is an emerging paradigm in this current postgenomics age of molecular and cell biology. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are primary components of the cell surface and the cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) interface. Advances in the technology to analyze GAGs and in whole-organism genetics have led to a dramatic increase in the known important biological role of these complex polysaccharides. Owing to their ubiquitous distribution at the cell-ECM interface, GAGs interact with numerous proteins and modulate their activity, thus impinging on fundamental biological processes such as cell growth and development. Many recent reviews have captured important aspects of GAG structure and biosynthesis, GAG-protein interactions, and GAG biology. GAG research is currently at a stage where there is a need for an integrated systems or glycomics approach, which involves an integration of all of the above concepts to define their structure-function relationships. Focusing on heparin/heparan (HSGAGs) and chondroitin/dermatan sulfate (CSGAGs), this review highlights the important aspects of GAGs and summarizes these aspects in the context of taking a glycomics approach that integrates the different technologies to define structure-function relationships of GAGs.

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