Role of glycosylation in development

Annu Rev Biochem. 2004;73:491-537. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.73.011303.074043.


Researchers have long predicted that complex carbohydrates on cell surfaces would play important roles in developmental processes because of the observation that specific carbohydrate structures appear in specific spatial and temporal patterns throughout development. The astounding number and complexity of carbohydrate structures on cell surfaces added support to the concept that glycoconjugates would function in cellular communication during development. Although the structural complexity inherent in glycoconjugates has slowed advances in our understanding of their functions, the complete sequencing of the genomes of organisms classically used in developmental studies (e.g., mice, Drosophila melanogaster, and Caenorhabditis elegans) has led to demonstration of essential functions for a number of glycoconjugates in developmental processes. Here we present a review of recent studies analyzing function of a variety of glycoconjugates (O-fucose, O-mannose, N-glycans, mucin-type O-glycans, proteoglycans, glycosphingolipids), focusing on lessons learned from human disease and genetic studies in mice, D. melanogaster, and C. elegans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / growth & development
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology
  • Fucose / physiology
  • Glycoconjugates / chemistry
  • Glycoconjugates / genetics
  • Glycoconjugates / physiology*
  • Glycosphingolipids / chemistry
  • Glycosphingolipids / physiology
  • Glycosylation
  • Growth*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mannose / physiology
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / physiology
  • Proteoglycans / chemistry
  • Proteoglycans / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Glycoconjugates
  • Glycosphingolipids
  • Polysaccharides
  • Proteoglycans
  • Fucose
  • Mannose