Achievements and challenges of sialic acid research
Sialic acids are one of the most important molecules of life, since they occupy the terminal position on macromolecules and cell membranes and are involved in many biological and pathological phenomena. The structures of sialic acids, comprising a family of over 40 neuraminic acid derivatives, have been elucidated. However, many aspects of the regulation of their metabolism at the enzyme and gene levels, as well as of their functions remain mysterious. Sialic acids play a dual role, not only are they indispensable for the protection to and adaptation of life, but are also utilised by life-threatening infectious microorganisms. In this article the present state of knowledge in sialobiology, with an emphasis on my personal experience in this research area, is outlined including a discussion of necessary future work in this fascinating field of cell biology.