Occurrence of sulfated galactans in marine angiosperms: evolutionary implications

Glycobiology. 2005 Jan;15(1):11-20. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwh138. Epub 2004 Aug 18.


We report for the first time that marine angiosperms (seagrasses) possess sulfated polysaccharides, which are absent in terrestrial and freshwater plants. The structure of the sulfated polysaccharide from the seagrass Ruppia maritima was determined. It is a sulfated D-galactan composed of the following regular tetrasaccharide repeating unit: [3-beta-D-Gal-2(OSO3)-1-->4-alpha-D-Gal-1-->4-alpha-D-Gal-1-->3-beta-D-Gal-4(OSO3)-1-->]. Sulfated galactans have been described previously in red algae and in marine invertebrates (ascidians and sea urchins). The sulfated galactan from the marine angiosperm has an intermediate structure when compared with the polysaccharides from these two other groups of organisms. Like marine invertebrate galactan, it expresses a regular repeating unit with a homogenous sulfation pattern. However, seagrass galactan contains the D-enantiomer of galactose instead of the L-isomer found in marine invertebrates. Like red algae, the marine angiosperm polysaccharide contains both alpha and beta units of D-galactose; however, these units are not distributed in an alternating order, as in algal galactan. Sulfated galactan is localized in the plant cell walls, mostly in rhizomes and roots, indicative of a relationship with the absorption of nutrients and of a possible structural function. The occurrence of sulfated galactans in marine organisms may be the result of physiological adaptations, which are not correlated with phylogenetic proximity. We suggest that convergent adaptation, due to environment pressure, may explain the occurrence of sulfated galactans in many marine organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alismatales / chemistry*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Cell Wall / chemistry
  • Galactans / analysis*
  • Galactans / chemistry*
  • Galactans / metabolism
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Hydrocharitaceae / chemistry*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sulfur / chemistry*


  • Galactans
  • Sulfur

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AB024568
  • GENBANK/AB093516
  • GENBANK/AF169243
  • GENBANK/BC025443
  • GENBANK/BC059008
  • RefSeq/NM_011828
  • RefSeq/NM_012262
  • RefSeq/NM_204481