Targeting sialylation to treat central nervous system diseases

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2021 Dec;42(12):998-1008. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2021 Oct 1.


Sialic acid-binding immunoglobulin-type lectins (SIGLECs) are membrane receptors that are preferentially expressed on immune cells and recognize sialylated proteins, lipids, and RNA. Sialic acids and signaling through SIGLECs are increasingly recognized for their essential roles in immune system homeostasis as well as nervous system development, plasticity, and repair. Dysregulated sialylation and SIGLEC dysfunctions contribute to several chronic diseases of the central nervous system (CNS) in which current therapeutic options are very limited. While only a few therapies targeting SIGLECs are currently being tested in clinical trials, the area emerged as one of the most dynamic and active fields in glycobiology and drug development. This review highlights recent insights into sialic acid and SIGLEC function in CNS pathologies and illustrates opportunities and challenges for the development of sialic acid-based and SIGLEC-targeted therapies for neurological diseases.

Keywords: Siglec; drug discovery; glycobiology; neurology; sialic acid; therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid* / metabolism
  • Sialic Acid Binding Immunoglobulin-like Lectins / metabolism


  • Sialic Acid Binding Immunoglobulin-like Lectins
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid