Advances in the biology and chemistry of sialic acids

ACS Chem Biol. 2010 Feb 19;5(2):163-76. doi: 10.1021/cb900266r.


Sialic acids are a subset of nonulosonic acids, which are nine-carbon alpha-keto aldonic acids. Natural existing sialic acid-containing structures are presented in different sialic acid forms, various sialyl linkages, and on diverse underlying glycans. They play important roles in biological, pathological, and immunological processes. Sialobiology has been a challenging and yet attractive research area. Recent advances in chemical and chemoenzymatic synthesis, as well as large-scale E. coli cell-based production, have provided a large library of sialoside standards and derivatives in amounts sufficient for structure-activity relationship studies. Sialoglycan microarrays provide an efficient platform for quick identification of preferred ligands for sialic acid-binding proteins. Future research on sialic acid will continue to be at the interface of chemistry and biology. Research efforts not only will lead to a better understanding of the biological and pathological importance of sialic acids and their diversity but also could lead to the development of therapeutics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Combinatorial Chemistry Techniques
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Neuraminidase / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry*
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / chemistry
  • Sialic Acids* / biosynthesis
  • Sialic Acids* / chemical synthesis
  • Sialic Acids* / chemistry
  • Sialyltransferases / chemistry


  • Polysaccharides
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Sialic Acids
  • Sialyltransferases
  • Neuraminidase