Histo-blood group glycans in the context of personalized medicine

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Aug;1860(8):1596-607. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2015.12.026. Epub 2015 Dec 31.


Background: A subset of histo-blood group antigens including ABO and Lewis are oligosaccharide structures which may be conjugated to lipids or proteins. They are known to be important recognition motifs not only in the context of blood transfusions, but also in infection and cancer development.

Scope of review: Current knowledge on the molecular background and the implication of histo-blood group glycans in the prevention and therapy of infectious and non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, is presented.

Major conclusions: Glycan-based histo-blood groups are associated with intestinal microbiota composition, the risk of various diseases as well as therapeutic success of, e.g., vaccination. Their potential as prebiotic or anti-microbial agents, as disease biomarkers and vaccine targets should be further investigated in future studies. For this, recent and future technological advancements will be of particular importance, especially with regard to the unambiguous structural characterization of the glycan portion in combination with information on the protein and lipid carriers of histo-blood group-active glycans in large cohorts.

General significance: Histo-blood group glycans have a unique linking position in the complex network of genes, oncodevelopmental biological processes, and disease mechanisms. Thus, they are highly promising targets for novel approaches in the field of personalized medicine. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "Glycans in personalised medicine" Guest Editor: Professor Gordan Lauc.

Keywords: Blood group; Cancer; Glycan; Infection; Personalized medicine; Vaccine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ABO Blood-Group System* / genetics
  • ABO Blood-Group System* / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens* / genetics
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Oligosaccharides* / genetics
  • Oligosaccharides* / metabolism
  • Precision Medicine / methods*


  • ABO Blood-Group System
  • Lewis Blood Group Antigens
  • Oligosaccharides