November 2011

Sugar fix

Signaling and development 

The second session, “Role of Glycoconjugates in Signaling and Development,” further highlights the diverse roles of glycoconjugates in biology. David Levin (Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine) will present recent work on the cell-wall-integrity signaling mechanisms that enable yeast cells to respond to cell-wall stress.

Hannes Buelow (Albert Einstein College of Medicine) will describe his studies of the role of heparan sulfate proteoglycans in axon guidance and nervous-system development in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans.

Thomas Biederer (Yale University) will talk about his work on the SynCAM family of adhesion molecules and the role that glycans play in regulating adhesion mediated by these proteins and subsequent synapse development.

Glycoconjugate assembly 

Although the assembly of glycoconjugates from activated monosaccharides is generally understood, there remain numerous gaps in our knowledge. In the third session, “Novel Metabolic Routes of Glycoconjugate Assembly,” Karen Colley (University of Illinois College of Medicine) will discuss the biosynthesis of polysialic acid, a unique antiadhesive glycoconjugate found on only a few proteins that play roles in the development and function of the nervous and immune systems. She will present new data that illustrate how these proteins are selected for polysialylation.

Debra Mohnen (University of Georgia) will discuss the assembly of pectin, a major plant cell-wall polysaccharide, which functions in plant growth, development, and response to pathogens and symbionts and has diverse positive effects on human health. She will describe new results describing novel mechanisms that regulate pectin synthesis and cell-wall assembly.

A key feature of the assembly of many glycoconjugates is the transbilayer movement of lipid biosynthetic intermediates. Anant Menon (Weill Cornell Medical College) will discuss recent efforts to identify the enigmatic flippases required for moving these complex glycolipid structures across the membrane bilayer.

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