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Habermann, Felix A.; Kaltner, Herbert; Higuero, Alonso M.; Garca Caballero, Gabriel; Ludwig, Anna-Kristin; Manning, Joachim C.; Abad-Rodrguez, Jos and Gabius, Hans-Joachim (28. April 2021): What Cyto- and Histochemistry Can Do to Crack the Sugar Code. In: Acta Histochemica et Cytochemica, Vol. 54, No. 2: pp. 31-48 [PDF, 3MB]


As letters form the vocabulary of a language, biochemical ‘symbols’ (the building blocks of oligo- and polymers) make writing molecular messages possible. Compared to nucleotides and amino acids, sugars have chemical properties that facilitate to reach an unsurpassed level of oligomer diversity. These glycans are a part of the ubiquitous cellular glycoconju-gates. Cyto- and histochemically, the glycans’ structural complexity is mapped by glycophe-notyping of cells and tissues using receptors (‘readers’, thus called lectins), hereby revealing its dynamic spatiotemporal regulation: these data support the concept of a sugar code. When proceeding from work with plant (haem)agglutinins as such tools to the discovery of endogenous (tissue) lectins, it became clear that a broad panel of biological meanings can indeed be derived from the sugar-based vocabulary (the natural glycome incl. post-synthetic modifications) by glycan-lectin recognition in situ. As consequence, the immunocyto- and histochemical analysis of lectin expression is building a solid basis for the steps toward tracking down functional correlations, for example in processes leading to cell adhesion, apoptosis, autophagy or growth regulation as well as targeted delivery of glycoproteins. Introduction of labeled tissue lectins to glycan profiling assists this endeavor by detecting counterreceptor(s) in situ. Combining these tools and their applications strategically will help to take the trip toward the following long-range aim: to compile a dictionary for the glycan vocabulary that translates each message (oligosaccharide) into its bioresponse(s), that is to crack the sugar code.

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