All cells in nature are covered with a dense and complex array of glycan chains. Specific recognition and binding of glycans is a critical aspect of cellular interactions, both within and between species. Glycan-protein interactions tend to be of low affinity but high specificity, typically utilizing multivalency to generate the affinity required for biologically relevant binding. This review focuses on a higher level of glycan organization, the formation of clustered saccharide patches (CSPs), which can constitute unique ligands for highly specific interactions. Due to technical challenges, this aspect of glycan recognition remains poorly understood. We present a wealth of evidence for CSPs-mediated interactions, and discuss recent advances in experimental tools that are beginning to provide new insights into the composition and organization of CSPs. The examples presented here are likely the tip of the iceberg, and much further work is needed to elucidate fully this higher level of glycan organization.
Keywords: Clustered saccharide patches; Gangliosides; Glycan microarrays; Glycome; Mucins; Sialic acids.
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