Structural insights into what glycan arrays tell us about how glycan-binding proteins interact with their ligands

Glycobiology. 2009 Nov;19(11):1155-62. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwp076. Epub 2009 Jun 15.


Screening of glycan arrays represents a powerful, high-throughput approach to defining oligosaccharide ligands for glycan-binding receptors, commonly referred to as lectins. Correlating results from such arrays with structural analysis of receptor-ligand complexes provide one way to validate the arrays. Using examples drawn from the family of proteins that contain C-type carbohydrate-recognition domains, this review illustrates how information from the arrays reflects the way that selectivity and affinity for glycan ligands is achieved. A range of binding profiles is observed, from very restricted binding to a small set of structurally similar ligands to binding of broad classes of ligands with related terminal sugars and even to failure to bind any of the glycans on an array. These outcomes provide insights into the importance of multiple factors in defining the selectivity of these receptors, including the presence of conformationally defined units in some oligosaccharide ligands, local and extended interactions between glycans and the surfaces of receptors, and steric factors that exclude binding of some ligands.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Microarray Analysis*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*


  • Ligands
  • Polysaccharides
  • Receptors, Cell Surface