Decoding glycomics with a suite of methods for differential expression analysis

Cell Rep Methods. 2023 Dec 18;3(12):100652. doi: 10.1016/j.crmeth.2023.100652. Epub 2023 Nov 21.


Glycomics, the comprehensive profiling of all glycan structures in samples, is rapidly expanding to enable insights into physiology and disease mechanisms. However, glycan structure complexity and glycomics data interpretation present challenges, especially for differential expression analysis. Here, we present a framework for differential glycomics expression analysis. Our methodology encompasses specialized and domain-informed methods for data normalization and imputation, glycan motif extraction and quantification, differential expression analysis, motif enrichment analysis, time series analysis, and meta-analytic capabilities, synthesizing results across multiple studies. All methods are integrated into our open-source glycowork package, facilitating performant workflows and user-friendly access. We demonstrate these methods using dedicated simulations and glycomics datasets of N-, O-, lipid-linked, and free glycans. Differential expression tests here focus on human datasets and cancer vs. healthy tissue comparisons. Our rigorous approach allows for robust, reliable, and comprehensive differential expression analyses in glycomics, contributing to advancing glycomics research and its translation to clinical and diagnostic applications.

Keywords: CP: systems biology; bioinformatics; carbohydrate; computational biology; glycan; glycomics; statistics.

MeSH terms

  • Glycomics* / methods
  • Humans
  • Polysaccharides* / chemistry


  • Polysaccharides