Glycobiology is an integrative science, crossing the fields of chemistry, biology, medicine, and materials science. Defined in the broadest sense, glycobiology is the study of the structure, biosynthesis and biology of glycans (carbohydrates).
All cells and many proteins are covered with a dense and complex array of covalently attached sugar chains (called oligosaccharides or glycans). The biological roles of these glycans become particularly important in constructing complex multicellular organs and organisms, a process which requires interactions of cells with one another, and with the surrounding extracellular matrix. Most classes of glycans are on the surface of cellular and secreted macromolecules. In addition, simple, rapidly turning-over protein-bound glycans are abundant in the nucleus and cytoplasm, where they serve as regulatory switches.
Glycans play essential roles in development and physiology, in evolution, in materials science, and in disease.