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High-throughput analysis of glycosylation

European researchers addressed the need for reliable quantification of a multitude of glycan structures in complex biological samples. The generated high-throughput analytical methods will revolutionise glycosylation research.
High-throughput analysis of glycosylation
Oligosaccharides (glycans) are key components in major biological processes and development is tightly linked with dynamic alterations in glycosylation patterns. Aberrant glycosylation profiles are invariably associated with biological dysfunction such as autoimmune reactions or cancer. In the structure of biopharmaceuticals, correct glycosylation is vital for maintaining safety and efficacy.

To address the growing need for analysing protein glycosylation, scientists of the EU-funded HIGHGLYCAN (Methods for high-throughput (HTP) analysis of protein glycosylation) project established robust and fast high-throughput glycoprofiling technologies. The idea was to develop kits with materials and reagents that are compliant with specific analytical instruments for isolation and high-throughput analysis of glycosylation. Simplification of processes, quantitation and reduction of running times were among the project objectives.

Towards the development of glycosylation profiling methods, researchers combined ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography and capillary gel electrophoresis with fluorescence detection and mass spectrometry. In addition, they investigated the potential of utilising robotics in sample preparation.

The automated profiling workflows were validated on samples from large population cohorts recruited in various clinical studies. Results were further associated with specific single nucleotide polymorphisms, unambiguously establishing the potential of all these methods in high-throughput biomedical research.

Significant efforts were also dedicated to software development, a major bottleneck in high-throughput glycomics. The team developed user-friendly software tools that enabled the analysis and interpretation of large datasets in a high-throughput manner.

The collaboration between academic and industrial scientists successfully transformed HIGHGLYCAN technology into innovative products and services. Furthermore, the clinical research initiatives of project partners ensured the efficient transfer of the developed technology into biomarker discovery programmes.

The deliverables of the study could find a wide variety of applications including systems biology approaches to dissecting glycosylation. This should fuel future research aimed towards unveiling the complex genetic networks governing protein glycosylation with significant implications for biomarker discovery.

Related information


Life Sciences


Glycosylation, HIGHGLYCAN, ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, biomarker
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