Structural features of glycan recognition among viral pathogens

Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2017 Jun;44:211-218. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2017 Jun 4.


Recognition and binding to host glycans present on cellular surfaces is an initial and critical step in viral entry. Diverse families of host glycans such as histo-blood group antigens, sialoglycans and glycosaminoglycans are recognized by viruses. Glycan binding determines virus-host specificity, tissue tropism, pathogenesis and potential for interspecies transmission. Viruses including noroviruses, rotaviruses, enteroviruses, influenza, and papillomaviruses have evolved novel strategies to bind specific glycans often in a strain-specific manner. Structural studies have been instrumental in elucidating the molecular determinants of these virus-glycan interactions, aiding in developing vaccines and antivirals targeting this key interaction. Our review focuses on these key structural aspects of virus-glycan interactions, particularly highlighting the different strain-specific strategies employed by viruses to bind host glycans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena*
  • Viruses / metabolism*


  • Polysaccharides