Annual Meeting

Sugar coating is, in fact, important

A 2022 annual meeting session on glycobiology
Valerie Weaver Steve Withers
By Valerie Weaver and Steve Withers
Oct. 7, 2021

Like people, whether they want to or not, cells need to interact with others around them. One way people interact is through the way they dress. Indeed, we often are judged by the clothes we wear. Cells are "clothed" in a specialised sugar layer known as the glycocalyx in which specific sugar structures are displayed on proteins and lipids. Based on this outer clothing layer, the cell is recognised by both friend and foe.

In this symposium, we will learn about new ways to identify, locate and quantitate the glycans present on different cells under specific conditions. We also will hear how we can dress cells for success through modification of their surface structures. In another section, we will learn how pathogens can recognize and invade cells through specific glycocalyx structures.

We also will hear several accounts of how cancer progression can be mediated through overexpression of glycans such as sialic acid and heparan. Apparently, as with people, inhibitions can be dampened by exuberance in cellular dressing. Learn about this and more at our symposium.

Keywords: glycosylation, glycocalyx, cellular interfaces, cancer, immunity, infection

Who should attend: anyone who is interested in understanding how cells function and interact with their environment through their surface glycan coat and anyone interested in cool new ways to modulate those interactions through carbohydrate chemistry and enzymology

Theme song (at least for the mucinophiles): "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen

This session is powered by interdisciplinary science with a sweet touch.


  • Nanoscale physical biology of the cellular glycocalyx — Matthew J. Paszek, Cornell University
  • MALDI imaging mass spectrometry mapping of the glycocalyx — Richard R. Drake, Medical University of South Carolina
  • Genetic and small molecule strategies to edit the glycocalyx — Sriram Neelamegham​, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Enzymatic removal of cell surface antigens as a route towards universal O type blood and organs — Stephen Withers, University of British Columbia
  • Hypersialylation of tumor cells promotes pancreatic cancer progression — Susan Bellis, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Receptor N-glycosylation links metabolism with signaling — James Dennis, Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute
  • Modeling the mucinous glycocalyx to unravel receptor pattern recognition by influenza A viruses — Kamil GodulaUniversity of California, San Diego
  • Cell surface glycan engineering reveals that matriglycan alone can recapitulate dystroglycan binding and function — Geert-Jan Boons, University of Georgia
  • The glycocalyx in tumor progression and metastasis — Valerie Weaver, University of California, San Francisco
  • The heparanase/syndecan-1 axis in cancer progression — Ralph D. Sanderson, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Reprogramming T cells to target glycans and overcome glycan-mediated immunosuppression for cancer therapy — Avery Posey, University of Pennsylvania
  • Orchestrated intragranular restructuring of mucins during secretory granule maturation — Kelly Ten Hagen, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Learn more

Check out all ten thematic symposia planned for the 2022 ASBMB annual meeting:

Valerie Weaver
Valerie Weaver

Valerie M. Weaver is the director of the Center for Bioengineering and Tissue Regeneration in the Department of Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, and also a Canadian.

Steve Withers
Steve Withers

Steve Withers is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of British Columbia.

Related articles

What’s new with DNA and RNA?
Karolin Luger & Chuan He
Enzymes show off new moves
Tadhg Begley & Catherine Drennan
Cells beat stress — so can you!
Jeffrey I. Brodsky & Elizabeth Vierling
New kids on the signaling block
Patrick Eyers & Anne-Claude Gingras

Featured jobs

from the ASBMB career center

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in Science

Science highlights or most popular articles

Finding a third form of fat
Journal News

Finding a third form of fat

Oct. 26, 2021

When brown fat was discovered in human adults, it came as a surprise. A classic JBC study found another surprise: White fat cells could be coaxed into a phenotype resembling brown fat.

My cat’s coat is mostly white with dark tabby patches. What’s going on?
Science Communication

My cat’s coat is mostly white with dark tabby patches. What’s going on?

Oct. 24, 2021

A researcher uses a tweetorial to figure out the underlying genetics for their cat’s coat.

Dalit scientists face barriers in India’s top science institutes

Dalit scientists face barriers in India’s top science institutes

Oct. 23, 2021

Despite decades-old inclusion policies, Dalits are systematically underrepresented in science institutes in India. Why?

‘It goes both ways’

‘It goes both ways’

Oct. 21, 2021

This year’s theme of “location, location, location” refers to the scenic meeting spot and to a new way of looking at lipids.

From the journals: JLR
Journal News

From the journals: JLR

Oct. 19, 2021

Predicting drug-induced lysosomal fat buildup. Minimizing side effects of atherosclerosis treatment. Finding a key to sepsis diagnosis and treatment. Read about papers on these topics recently published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

A new way of looking at concussions

A new way of looking at concussions

Oct. 17, 2021

Emerging research suggests that even mild hits to the head may damage the tiny lymphatic vessels that clear toxic chemicals and cellular debris from the brain.