Putting Sugar on Chips

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Science  16 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5669, pp. 363
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5669.363a

Microarrays have transformed experimentation by allowing molecular catalogs to be searched in parallel, instead of serially. Constructing these catalogs is routine for nucleic acids and becoming easier for proteins, yet carbohydrates are a rather different kettle of fish. Effort thus far has focused on chemical synthesis of oligosaccharides and their attachment (via thiols or amides) to suitably modified surfaces.

Park et al. describe a combined chemical and enzymatic approach to more lifelike sugar chains, using three successive glycosylations to make sialyl Lewis × (Lex). At this rate, it might not be far-fetched to imagine a chip displaying the complement of cell surface carbohydrates. Why this might be useful is aptly illustrated by the demonstration by Matrosovich et al. that avian influenza targets ciliated cells in human airway epithelium, whereas human influenza infects the nonciliated cells; the former express 2–3 linked sialic acids, and the latter, 2–6 linked sialic acids. — GJC

J. Am. Chem. Soc. 10.1021/ja0391661 (2004); Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 101, 4620 (2004).

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