Speciality reagents case study

AMS Bio reports how the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds (UK) is using its speciality reagents for the production, visualisation and analysis of glycans and to investigate their interactions, which are instrumental to the advance of glycobiology.

Glycobiology is vital for many biological processes – from fertilisation to inflammation – helping unlock information about interactions between carbohydrates and proteins and providing the mechanism by which many viruses and bacteria latch on to healthy cells. Leading research groups around the world are using glycobiology reagents to reach a better understanding of the biology of neurons, stem cells, inflammation, infection and cancer.

Researchers from the Richter and Kwok Laboratories in the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds are particularly interested in a class of polysaccharides called glycosaminoglycans, which are abundant on the cell surface and in extracellular space. They provide shape to cell surfaces and help organise extracellular matrix that forms the conduit for molecular diffusion and cell migration.

Head of the Kwok Lab, Dr Jessica Kwok, commented: “Glycans are the dark matter of biology. We know they are widely found outside and inside cells. We know they are important. Yet, we know all too little about how they work. One particular research focus in our labs is better understanding the molecular assembly of perineuronal nets (PNNs), a glycan-rich extracellular matrix structure on the surface of neurons.”

Kwok added: “As their name suggests, mature PNNs, have a reticular (net-like) morphology with holes for the formation of synapses. We have recently shown, with the help of glycobiology reagents from AMS Bio, that the multivalent interactions between chondroitin sulfate glycosaminoglycans and semaphorin proteins could be a driving force behind the distinct structure of PNNs. These interactions contribute to regulating synaptic plasticity, and their better understanding and control opens up new avenues to promote synapse formation such as potential treatments for spinal cord injury or understanding aging processes.”

Research colleague and head of the Richter lab, Dr Ralf Richter, added: “Glycans, whether on cell surface or in the extracellular matrix, are essential for the communication of cells with their environment. Glycans modulate the lateral mobility and activity of cell surface receptors, ion channels and cytokines, and function as barriers to infection, yet many bacteria and viruses exploit our glycans for cell adhesion and entry. However, most advances in biology critically depend on the availability of bespoke reagents. This is particularly true for glycobiology and the biosynthesis of glycans where AMS Bio has established itself as a provider of high-quality speciality reagents for the production, visualisation and analysis of glycans which are key to our research.”

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