Glycomics is a broad and emerging scientific discipline focused on defining the structures and functional roles of glycans in biological systems. The staggering complexity of the glycome, minimally defined as the repertoire of glycans expressed in a cell or organism, has resulted in many challenges that must be overcome; these are being addressed by new advances in mass spectrometry as well as by the expansion of genetic and cell biology studies. Conversely, identifying the specific glycan recognition determinants of glycan-binding proteins by employing the new technology of glycan microarrays is providing insights into how glycans function in recognition and signaling within an organism and with microbes and pathogens. The promises of a more complete knowledge of glycomes are immense in that glycan modifications of intracellular and extracellular proteins have critical functions in almost all biological pathways.
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