The sialyl-alpha2,6-lactosaminyl-structure: biosynthesis and functional role

Glycoconj J. 2000 Oct;17(10):669-76. doi: 10.1023/a:1011077000164.


Sialylation represents one of the most frequently occurring terminations of the oligosaccharide chains of glycoproteins and glycolipids. Sialic acid is commonly found alpha2,3- or alpha2,6-linked to galactose (Gal), alpha2,6-linked to N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) or alpha2,8-linked to another sialic acid. The biosynthesis of the various linkages is mediated by the different members of the sialyltransferase family. The addition of sialic acid in alpha2,6-linkage to the galactose residue of lactosamine (type 2 chains) is catalyzed by beta-galactoside alpha2,6-sialyltransferase (ST6Gal.I). Although expressed by a single gene, this enzyme shows a complex pattern of regulation which allows its tissue- and stage-specific modulation. The cognate oligosaccharide structure, NeuAcalpha2,6Galbeta1,4GlcNAc, is widely distributed among tissues and is involved in biological processes such as the regulation of the immune response and the progression of colon cancer. This review summarizes the current knowledge on the biochemistry of ST6Gal.I and on the functional role of the sialyl-alpha2,6-lactosaminyl structure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Oligosaccharides / biosynthesis*
  • Oligosaccharides / chemistry*
  • Sialyltransferases / metabolism*


  • Oligosaccharides
  • N-acetylneuraminosyl(alpha2-6)lactosamine
  • Sialyltransferases
  • beta-D-galactoside alpha 2-6-sialyltransferase