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Biochimie. 2011 Oct;93(10):1641-6. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2011.06.002. Epub 2011 Jun 12.

Primer on genes encoding enzymes in sialic acid metabolism in mammals.

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Department of Animal Science, University of California-Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616-8521, USA.


Sialic acid, a nine-carbon sugar acid usually is present in the non-reducing terminal position of free oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates. Sialylated conjugates in mammals perform important roles in cellular recognition, signaling, host-pathogen interaction and neuronal development. Metabolism of sialylated conjugates involves a complex pathway consisting of enzymes distributed among the different compartments in the cell. These enzymes are encoded by 32 genes diversely distributed throughout the mammalian genome. Genetic variants in some of these genes are associated with embryonic lethality and abnormal phenotypes in mice and neuromuscular diseases, carcinomas and immune-mediated diseases in humans. In humans, the CMP-NeuAc-hydroxylase (CMAH) enzyme is inactivated due to a deletion mutation in the encoded enzyme. This lack of Neu5Gc phenotype makes humans unique among mammals. This review focuses on genes encoding enzymes in sialic acid metabolism pathways in mammalian cells with special emphasis on the human, mouse and cow.

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