Glycan characterization of biopharmaceuticals: Updates and perspectives

Anal Chim Acta. 2016 May 19;921:13-27. doi: 10.1016/j.aca.2016.03.049. Epub 2016 Apr 8.


Therapeutic proteins are rapidly becoming the most promising class of pharmaceuticals on the market due to their successful treatment of a vast array of serious diseases, such as cancers and immune disorders. Therapeutic proteins are produced using recombinant DNA technology. More than 60% of therapeutic proteins are posttranslationally modified following biosynthesis by the addition of N- or O-linked glycans. Glycosylation is the most common posttranslational modifications of proteins. However, it is also the most demanding and complex posttranslational modification from the analytical point of view. Moreover, research has shown that glycosylation significantly impacts stability, half-life, mechanism of action and safety of a therapeutic protein. Considering the exponential growth of biotherapeutics, this present review of the literature (2009-2015) focuses on the characterization of protein glycosylation, which has witnessed an improvement in methodology. Furthermore, it discusses current issues in the fields of production and characterization of therapeutic proteins. This review also highlights the problem of non-standard requirements for the approval of biosimilars with regard to their glycosylation and discusses recent developments and perspectives for improved glycan characterization.

Keywords: Bioinformatics; Biopharmaceuticals; Biosimilars; Glycan analysis guidelines; Glycan detection; Glycan separation; N-glycosylation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals / chemistry*
  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical / methods
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Polysaccharides / analysis*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry


  • Biosimilar Pharmaceuticals
  • Polysaccharides
  • Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins