Engineering of routes to heparin and related polysaccharides

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2012 Jan;93(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3641-4. Epub 2011 Nov 3.


Anticoagulant heparin has been shown to possess important biological functions that vary according to its fine structure. Variability within heparin's structure occurs owing to its biosynthesis and animal tissue-based recovery and adds another dimension to its complex polymeric structure. The structural variations in chain length and sulfation patterns mediate its interaction with many heparin-binding proteins, thereby eliciting complex biological responses. The advent of novel chemical and enzymatic approaches for polysaccharide synthesis coupled with high throughput combinatorial approaches for drug discovery have facilitated an increased effort to understand heparin's structure-activity relationships. An improved understanding would offer potential for new therapeutic development through the engineering of polysaccharides. Such a bioengineering approach requires the amalgamation of several different disciplines, including carbohydrate synthesis, applied enzymology, metabolic engineering, and process biochemistry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotechnology / methods*
  • Heparin / chemistry
  • Heparin / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Engineering*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Heparin