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Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering
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Glycomics/Glycobiology (Linhardt, Dordick, Zhang)

Glycomics is a field that is a logical offshoot of the fields of genomics and proteomics and is considered as a sub-discipline of metabolomics. Glycobiology is the study of the structure, function and structure-function relationships of carbohydrates known to carry and store significant biological information crucial in virtually all physiological and pathophysiological processes.

The DNA blueprint of a cell, the genome, encodes the proteome. Intron and exon splicing complicates the structural proteomics and the function of each protein (functional proteomics) is complicated by our inability to translate linear gene sequence to folded protein structure and to predict protein function from folded structure. The proteome is directly responsible for the synthesis of the metabalome (all natural products). The proteome is further complicated by posttranslational modification, the most frequent of which is glycosylation. Over 60% of human proteins are glycosylated yet the structure and function of this glycosylation is relatively unexplored. Moreover, every animal cell is surrounded by a complex coating of carbohydrates known as the glycocalyx that is critical in signaling and in cell-cell interaction (Figure 1). The fields of structural glycomics and functional glycomics are being studied in the BCME Constellation.

 

The glycocalyx of an animal cell containing membrane bound glycolipids, glycoproteins and proteoglycans is shown.

Figure 1: The glycocalyx of an animal cell is shown containing membrane bound glycolipids, glycoproteins and proteoglycans.