Glycans: the underappreciated building block of life
Glycans are saccharides that can be attached to a wide variety of biological molecules through an enzymatic process called glycosylation to augment their function. Of the four fundamental building blocks of life, proteins, carbohydrates (glycans), lipids and nucleic acids, glycans have received the least attention from researchers. Glycans are found in Archaea, bacteria and eukaryotes, and their diverse functions contribute to physical and structural integrity, extracellular matrix formation, signal transduction, protein folding and information exchange between cells (and pathogens). A recent issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry highlighted the important and diverse biological functions of glycans in a thematic minireview series organized by Associate Editor Gerald W. Hart.