Introduction: Protein glycosylation is recognized as an important post-translational modification, with specific substructures having significant effects on protein folding, conformation, distribution, stability and activity. However, due to the structural complexity of glycans, elucidating glycan structure-function relationships is demanding. The fine detail of glycan structures attached to proteins (including sequence, branching, linkage and anomericity) is still best analysed after the glycans are released from the purified or mixture of glycoproteins (glycomics). The technologies currently available for glycomics are becoming streamlined and standardized and many features of protein glycosylation can now be determined using instruments available in most protein analytical laboratories.
Areas covered: This review focuses on the current glycomics technologies being commonly used for the analysis of the microheterogeneity of monosaccharide composition, sequence, branching and linkage of released N- and O-linked glycans that enable the determination of precise glycan structural determinants presented on secreted proteins and on the surface of all cells.
Expert commentary: Several emerging advances in these technologies enabling glycomics analysis are discussed. The technological and bioinformatics requirements to be able to accurately assign these precise glycan features at biological levels in a disease context are assessed.
- disease glycomics
- glycan analysis
- glycan structure
- mass spectrometry