Glycomics Institute of Alberta

Meet the Sugars

Sugars, also known as glycans, play big and small roles in everything from growth & development to energy metabolism to cell signaling. Whether they impact us positively or negatively depends entirely on context – that is, what kind of protein or lipid they happen to be attached to.

The GlycoGang

Click on each sugar to learn more about them and download a GlycoGang poster on our educational resources page!

GlcNAc

GlcNAc

IdoA

IdoA

GalNAc

GalNAc

Fuc

Fuc

Glc

Glc

Meet N-Acetylglucosamine
aka GlcNAc

GlcNAc serves as a building block for the synthesis of important molecules such as chitin, peptidoglycan, and various glycoproteins and glycolipids. It is involved in protein glycosylation, cellular signaling, and immune response modulation. GlcNAc also plays a crucial role in the structural integrity of cartilage and connective tissues. However, dysregulation in GlcNAc metabolism or abnormal glycosylation patterns can contribute to diseases, including autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and certain cancers.

N-Acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (blue square), and chemical structure.

Meet Iduronic acid
aka IdoA

IdoA is a critical component of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), such as heparan sulfate and dermatan sulfate, which are essential for the structure and function of connective tissues, cartilage, and blood vessels. IdoA provides flexibility and stability to GAGs, enabling them to fulfill their roles in cellular adhesion, signaling, and extracellular matrix organization. However, abnormalities in IdoA metabolism or alterations in GAG structure can lead to inherited metabolic disorders, such as mucopolysaccharidoses, resulting in tissue dysfunction, skeletal abnormalities, and impaired organ function.

Iduronic acid (IdoA) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (brown and white diamond), and chemical structure.

Meet N-Acetylgalactosamine
aka GalNAc

GalNAc is a crucial building block in the synthesis of glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans, contributing to cell adhesion, extracellular matrix formation, and tissue development. It is involved in the modification of proteins through O-linked glycosylation, which influences protein stability, function, and cell signaling. However, aberrant GalNAc glycosylation patterns have been implicated in various diseases, including cancer and inflammatory disorders. Dysregulation of GalNAc-transferase enzymes or changes in GalNAc-glycan structures can disrupt normal cellular processes and contribute to disease progression.

N-Acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (yellow square), and chemical structure.

Meet Fucose
aka Fuc

Fucose is essential for various biological processes, including cellular adhesion, signaling, and immune response. It serves as a component of important molecules such as glycoproteins, glycolipids, and proteoglycans, influencing their structure and function. Fucose-containing glycans, such as Lewis antigens, contribute to cell recognition and communication. However, alterations in fucose metabolism or glycan structures can be associated with disease. For instance, changes in fucosylation patterns have been observed in cancer and inflammatory disorders, highlighting the role of fucose in disease progression and immune modulation.

Fucose (Fuc) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (red triangle), and chemical structure.

Meet Glucose
aka Glc

Glucose serves as a primary energy source for the body, fueling various cellular processes and supporting vital functions. It is the main substrate for ATP production through cellular respiration. Glucose also participates in glycogen synthesis, regulating blood sugar levels and providing energy reserves. However, dysregulation in glucose metabolism can lead to health issues such as diabetes mellitus, where the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels is compromised, resulting in elevated glucose concentrations and potential complications. Proper glucose control is crucial for maintaining optimal health and preventing chronic diseases.

Glucose (Glc) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (blue circle), and chemical structure.

Meet Galactose
aka Gal

Galactose is a vital component of glycolipids, glycoproteins, and glycosaminoglycans, contributing to their structural integrity and cellular functions. It is particularly essential for the development and maintenance of the nervous system and proper brain function. However, in individuals with a genetic disorder called galactosemia, the inability to metabolize galactose leads to toxic accumulation, causing severe health problems, including liver damage, cognitive impairments, and other systemic complications. Early detection and dietary intervention are crucial to mitigate the negative effects of galactosemia.

Galactose (Gal) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (yellow circle), and chemical structure.

Meet N-Acetylneuraminic acid
aka Neu5Ac

Neu5Ac is a crucial component of glycoproteins and glycolipids, where it serves as a recognition signal involved in cell-cell interactions, immune response, and protection against pathogens. It contributes to the structural diversity of glycans, allowing for intricate cellular communication. However, certain pathogens, including influenza viruses, can exploit sialic acid residues for viral entry and infection. Additionally, dysregulation or abnormalities in sialic acid metabolism can lead to disorders known as sialopathies, which can manifest as neurological impairments and developmental abnormalities.

N-Acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (purple diamond), and chemical structure.

Meet Glucuronic acid
aka GlcA

Glucuronic acid is a critical component of the detoxification pathway in the liver, where it conjugates with toxins and drugs to facilitate their elimination from the body. This process, known as glucuronidation, helps in the removal of harmful substances and protects against their adverse effects. Glucuronic acid is also involved in the biosynthesis of important molecules such as glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans, which are essential for the structure and function of connective tissues. However, dysregulation or deficiency in glucuronic acid metabolism can lead to impaired detoxification, accumulation of toxins, and contribute to the pathogenesis of certain diseases.

Glucuronic acid (GlcA) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (blue and white diamond), and chemical structure.

Meet Xylose
aka Xyl

Xylose is a crucial component of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are essential for the structure and function of connective tissues, cartilage, and blood vessels. It also participates in the synthesis of proteoglycans, which are involved in cellular signaling and tissue development. However, excessive xylose intake can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms and malabsorption issues in individuals with intolerances, such as xylose isomerase deficiency. Additionally, xylose can be utilized by certain pathogenic microorganisms, including Candida species, as a nutrient source, contributing to the overgrowth and colonization associated with certain infections.

Xylose (Xyl) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (orange star), and chemical structure.

Meet Mannose
aka Man

Mannose is an essential sugar involved in various biological processes, including cell-cell recognition, immune response, and protein glycosylation. It serves as a precursor for the synthesis of glycoproteins and glycolipids critical for normal cellular function. Additionally, mannose-based therapies are being explored for the treatment of certain genetic disorders and infections. On the negative side, abnormal mannose metabolism or deficiencies in mannose-related enzymes can lead to rare genetic disorders, such as congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG). Furthermore, certain pathogens, including some bacterial and viral strains, exploit mannose receptors on host cells for attachment and invasion, contributing to pathogenesis and disease progression.

Mannose (Man) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (green circle), and chemical structure.

Gal

Gal

Neu5Ac

Neu5Ac

GlcA

GlcA

Xyl

Xyl

GlycoGang member Mannose (Man) smiling and waving.

Man

Man

Credit to Sunnie Illustrations for The GlycoGang

The GlycoGang

Click on each sugar to learn more about them and download a GlycoGang poster on our educational resources page!

GlcNAc

GlcNAc

Meet N-Acetylglucosamine
aka GlcNAc

GlcNAc serves as a building block for the synthesis of important molecules such as chitin, peptidoglycan, and various glycoproteins and glycolipids. It is involved in protein glycosylation, cellular signaling, and immune response modulation. GlcNAc also plays a crucial role in the structural integrity of cartilage and connective tissues. However, dysregulation in GlcNAc metabolism or abnormal glycosylation patterns can contribute to diseases, including autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and certain cancers.

N-Acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (blue square), and chemical structure.

IdoA

IdoA

Meet Iduronic acid
aka IdoA

IdoA is a critical component of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), such as heparan sulfate and dermatan sulfate, which are essential for the structure and function of connective tissues, cartilage, and blood vessels. IdoA provides flexibility and stability to GAGs, enabling them to fulfill their roles in cellular adhesion, signaling, and extracellular matrix organization. However, abnormalities in IdoA metabolism or alterations in GAG structure can lead to inherited metabolic disorders, such as mucopolysaccharidoses, resulting in tissue dysfunction, skeletal abnormalities, and impaired organ function.

Iduronic acid (IdoA) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (brown and white diamond), and chemical structure.

GalNAc

GalNAc

Meet N-Acetylgalactosamine
aka GalNAc

GalNAc is a crucial building block in the synthesis of glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), contributing to cell adhesion, extracellular matrix formation, and tissue development. It is involved in the modification of proteins through O-linked glycosylation, which influences protein stability, function, and cell signaling. However, aberrant GalNAc glycosylation patterns have been implicated in various diseases, including cancer and inflammatory disorders. Dysregulation of GalNAc-transferase enzymes or changes in GalNAc-glycan structures can disrupt normal cellular processes and contribute to disease progression.

N-Acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (yellow square), and chemical structure.

Fuc

Fuc

Meet Fucose
aka Fuc

Fucose is essential for various biological processes, including cellular adhesion, signaling, and immune response. It serves as a component of important molecules such as glycoproteins, glycolipids, and proteoglycans, influencing their structure and function. Fucose-containing glycans, such as Lewis antigens, contribute to cell recognition and communication. However, alterations in fucose metabolism or glycan structures can be associated with disease. For instance, changes in fucosylation patterns have been observed in cancer and inflammatory disorders, highlighting the role of fucose in disease progression and immune modulation.

Fucose (Fuc) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (red triangle), and chemical structure.

Glc

Glc

Meet Glucose
aka Glc

Glucose serves as a primary energy source for the body, fueling various cellular processes and supporting vital functions. It is the main substrate for ATP production through cellular respiration. Glucose also participates in glycogen synthesis, regulating blood sugar levels and providing energy reserves. However, dysregulation in glucose metabolism can lead to health issues such as diabetes mellitus, where the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels is compromised, resulting in elevated glucose concentrations and potential complications. Proper glucose control is crucial for maintaining optimal health and preventing chronic diseases.

Glucose (Glc) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (blue circle), and chemical structure.

Gal

Gal

Meet Galactose
aka Gal

Galactose is a vital component of glycolipids, glycoproteins, and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), contributing to their structural integrity and cellular functions. It is particularly essential for the development and maintenance of the nervous system and proper brain function. However, in individuals with a genetic disorder called galactosemia, the inability to metabolize galactose leads to toxic accumulation, causing severe health problems, including liver damage, cognitive impairments, and other systemic complications. Early detection and dietary intervention are crucial to mitigate the negative effects of galactosemia.

Galactose (Gal) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (yellow circle), and chemical structure.

Neu5Ac

Neu5Ac

Meet N-Acetylneuraminic acid
aka Neu5Ac

Neu5Ac is a crucial component of glycoproteins and glycolipids, where it serves as a recognition signal involved in cell-cell interactions, immune response, and protection against pathogens. It contributes to the structural diversity of glycans, allowing for intricate cellular communication. However, certain pathogens, including influenza viruses, can exploit sialic acid residues for viral entry and infection. Additionally, dysregulation or abnormalities in sialic acid metabolism can lead to disorders known as sialopathies, which can manifest as neurological impairments and developmental abnormalities.

N-Acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (purple diamond), and chemical structure.

GlcA

GlcA

Meet Glucuronic acid
aka GlcA

Glucuronic acid is a critical component of the detoxification pathway in the liver, where it conjugates with toxins and drugs to facilitate their elimination from the body. This process, known as glucuronidation, helps in the removal of harmful substances and protects against their adverse effects. Glucuronic acid is also involved in the biosynthesis of important molecules such as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and proteoglycans, which are essential for the structure and function of connective tissues. However, dysregulation or deficiency in glucuronic acid metabolism can lead to impaired detoxification, accumulation of toxins, and contribute to the pathogenesis of certain diseases.

Glucuronic acid (GlcA) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (blue and white diamond), and chemical structure.

Xyl

Xyl

Meet Xylose
aka Xyl

Xylose is a crucial component of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are essential for the structure and function of connective tissues, cartilage, and blood vessels. It also participates in the synthesis of proteoglycans, which are involved in cellular signaling and tissue development. However, excessive xylose intake can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms and malabsorption issues in individuals with intolerances, such as xylose isomerase deficiency. Additionally, xylose can be utilized by certain pathogenic microorganisms, including Candida species, as a nutrient source, contributing to the overgrowth and colonization associated with certain infections.

Xylose (Xyl) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (orange star), and chemical structure.
GlycoGang member Mannose (Man) smiling and waving.

Man

Man

Meet Mannose
aka Man

Mannose is an essential sugar involved in various biological processes, including cell-cell recognition, immune response, and protein glycosylation. It serves as a precursor for the synthesis of glycoproteins and glycolipids critical for normal cellular function. Additionally, mannose-based therapies are being explored for the treatment of certain genetic disorders and infections. On the negative side, abnormal mannose metabolism or deficiencies in mannose-related enzymes can lead to rare genetic disorders, such as congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG). Furthermore, certain pathogens, including some bacterial and viral strains, exploit mannose receptors on host cells for attachment and invasion, contributing to pathogenesis and disease progression.

Mannose (Man) as a cartoon member of the GlycoGang, inspired by its SNFG symbol (green circle), and chemical structure.

Credit to Sunnie Illustrations for The GlycoGang

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