Oligosaccharides as Informational Molecules?

Robert Trimble trimble at wadsworth.org
Fri Sep 11 12:15:53 EST 1998

In article <6sphli$iai$1 at newsreader.wustl.edu>, mdonken at artsci.wustl.edu
(Michael Dorsett Onken) wrote:

> Matt Sandel (mjs419 at psu.edu) wrote:
> :     Today in Biology class my professor said that polysaccharides are
> : not ever informational molecules.  However, last year, my high school
> : biology teacher had mentioned in class that they had discovered that
> : some cells have Oligosaccharide chains attached to the outside of their
> : cell membranes and that these have cell identification functions.  My
> : questions are thus 1) Is this statement regarding Oligosaccharides true?
> : And 2) If so, does that make these Oligosaccharides informational
> : molecules?  Thanks.
> : Matt Sandel
> Your professor may have been referring to FREE oligosaccharides being used
> for signalling... I hope.  Otherwise, you are correct that the sugar
> moieties decorating proteins are absolutely informational.  The immune
> system depends on glycosylation for much of its recognition machinery (the
> ABO and Rh blood groups are oligosaccharides), and recent work has even
> suggested that changes in the oligosaccharides on certain membrane
> proteins are responsible for memory (see below)
>    <<snip>> a good example,- here's another......

Think about the selective decoration of the high-mannose oligosaccharides
on lysosomal enzymes with GlcNAc-phosphate, which is trimmed to the
Man-phosphates that are seen by the cation dependent and cation
independent Man-6-P receptors. This is a direct example of oligosaccharide
"information." Check out a current copy of one of the Molecular Cell
Biology text for other examples. Robert Trimble, Wadsworth Labs, NYSDOH,

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