Sialic acids in human health and disease

Trends Mol Med. 2008 Aug;14(8):351-60. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2008.06.002. Epub 2008 Jul 6.


The surfaces of all vertebrate cells are decorated with a dense and complex array of sugar chains, which are mostly attached to proteins and lipids. Most soluble secreted proteins are also similarly decorated with such glycans. Sialic acids are a diverse family of sugar units with a nine-carbon backbone that are typically found attached to the outermost ends of these chains. Given their location and ubiquitous distribution, sialic acids can mediate or modulate a wide variety of physiological and pathological processes. This review considers some examples of their established and newly emerging roles in aspects of human physiology and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases / metabolism
  • Communicable Diseases / physiopathology
  • Fertilization
  • Humans
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Sialic Acids / chemistry
  • Sialic Acids / metabolism*


  • Polysaccharides
  • Sialic Acids