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Gabius, H.-J. (2017): How to Crack the Sugar Code. In: Folia Biologica, Vol. 63, No. 4: pp. 121-131
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The known ubiquitous presence of glycans fulfils an essential prerequisite for fundamental roles in cell sociology. Since carbohydrates are chemically predestined to form biochemical messages of a maximum of structural diversity in a minimum of space, coding of biological information by sugars is the reason for the broad occurrence of cellular glycoconjugates. Their glycans originate from sophisticated enzymatic assembly and dynamically adaptable remodelling. These signals are read and translated into effects by receptors (lectins). The functional pairing between lectins and their counterreceptor(s) is highly specific, often orchestrated by intimate co-regulation of the receptor, the cognate glycan and the bioactive scaffold (e.g., an integrin). Bottom-up approaches, teaming up synthetic and supramolecular chemistry to prepare fully programmable nanoparticles as binding partners with systematic network analysis of lectins and rational design of variants, enable us to delineate the rules of the sugar code.