, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 241-252
Date: 14 Apr 2010

Marine Glycobiology: Current Status and Future Perspectives

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Abstract

Glycobiology, which is the study of the structure and function of carbohydrates and carbohydrate containing molecules, is fundamental to all biological systems. Progress in glycobiology has shed light on a range of complex biological processes associated with, for example, disease and immunology, molecular and cellular communication, and developmental biology. There is an established, if rather modest, tradition of glycobiology research in marine systems that has primarily focused on reproduction, biofouling, and chemical communication. The current status of marine glycobiology research is primarily descriptive with very limited progress on structural elucidation and the subsequent definition of precise functional roles beyond a small number of classical examples, e.g., induction of the acrosome reaction in echinoderms. However, with recent advances in analytical instrumentation, there is now the capacity to begin to characterize marine glycoconjugates, many of which will have potential biomedical and biotechnological applications. The analytical approach to glycoscience has developed to such an extent that it has acquired its own “-omics” identity. Glycomics is the quest to decipher the complex information conveyed by carbohydrate molecules—the carbohydrate code or glycocode. Due to the paucity of structural information available, this article will highlight the fundamental importance of glycobiology for many biological processes in marine organisms and will draw upon the best defined systems. These systems therefore may prove genuine candidates for full carbohydrate characterization.