Most proteins within living organisms contain sugar chains. Recent advancements in cell biology have revealed that many of these sugar chains play important roles as signals for cell-surface recognition phenomena in multi-cellular organisms. In order to elucidate the biological information included in the sugar chains and link them with biology, a novel scientific field called 'glycobiology' has been established. This review will give an outline of the analytical techniques for the structural study of the sugar chains of glycoproteins, the structural characteristics of the sugar chains and the biosynthetic mechanism to produce such characteristics. Based on this knowledge, functional aspects of the sugar chains of glycohormones and of those in the immune system will be described to help others understand this new scientific field.