Aberrant protein glycosylation has been shown to be associated with disease processes and identification of disease-specific glycoproteins and glycosylation changes may serve as potential diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers. However despite recent advances in proteomic-based biomarker discovery, this knowledge has not yet translated into an extensive mining of the glycoproteome for potential biomarkers. The major challenge for a comprehensive glycoproteomics analysis arises primarily from the enormous complexity and the large dynamic range in protein constituent in biological samples. Methods that specifically target glycoproteins are therefore necessary to facilitate their selective enrichment prior to their identification by MS-based analysis. The use of lectins, with selective affinities for specific carbohydrate epitopes, to enrich glycoprotein fractions coupled with modern MS, have greatly enhanced the identification of the glycoproteome. On account of their ability to specifically bind cell surface carbohydrates lectins have, during the recent past, found extensive applications in elucidation of the architecture and dynamics of cell surface carbohydrates, glycoconjugate purification, and structural characterization. Combined with complementary depletion and MS technologies, lectin affinity chromatography is becoming the most widely employed method of choice for biomarker discovery in cancer and other diseases.
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