Comparative enzymology, biochemistry and pathophysiology of human exo-alpha-sialidases (neuraminidases)

Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2001 May;129(1):29-64. doi: 10.1016/s1096-4959(01)00372-4.


This review summarizes the current research on human exo-alpha-sialidase (sialidase, neuraminidase). Where appropriate, the properties of viral, bacterial, and human sialidases have been compared. Sialic acids are implicated in diverse physiological processes. Sialidases, as enzymes acting upon sialic acids, assume importance as well. Sialidases hydrolyze the terminal, non-reducing, sialic acid linkage in glycoproteins, glycolipids, gangliosides, polysaccharides, and synthetic molecules. Therefore, a variety of assays are available to measure sialidase activity. Human sialidase is present in several organs and cells. Its cellular distribution could be cytosolic, lysosomal, or in the membrane. Human sialidase occurs in a high molecular-mass complex with several other proteins, including cathepsin A and beta-galactosidase. Multi-protein complexation is important for the in vivo integrity and catalytic activity of the sialidase. However, multi-protein complexation, the occurrence of isoenzymes, diverse subcellular localization, thermal instability, and membrane association have all contributed to difficulties in purifying and characterizing human sialidases. Human sialidase isoenzymes have recently been cloned and sequenced. Even though crystal structures for the human sialidases are not available, the highly conserved regions of the sialidase from various organisms have facilitated molecular modeling of the human enzyme and raise interesting evolutionary questions. While the molecular mechanisms vary, genetic defects leading to human sialidase deficiency are closely associated with at least two well-known human diseases, namely sialidosis and galactosialidosis. No therapy is currently available for either disease. A thorough investigation of human sialidases is therefore crucial to human health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neuraminidase / biosynthesis
  • Neuraminidase / chemistry*
  • Neuraminidase / genetics
  • Neuraminidase / physiology*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Neuraminidase