Indian journal of biochemistry & biophysics

N-glycolylneuraminic acid conjugates: implications of their absence in mammalian biochemistry.

PMID 22900313


N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) is one of the two most common forms of sialic acids present in glycoproteins and glycolipids of mammalian tissues. It is synthesized from the most ubiquitous sialic acid, N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) in a hydroxylation reaction catalysed by the enzyme Neu5Ac hydroxylase. Though Neu5Gc conjugates are prevalent in many tissues of mammals, they are absent in glycolipids and only trace amounts are present in glycoproteins of the brain and central nervous system. In humans Neu5Ac is the main sialic acid as Neu5Ac hydroxylase is inactive due to mutation of its gene. The importance of sialic acids in biochemical phenomena and the distinct roles played by specific forms of these amino sugars is adequately reflected in functional studies of selectin and sialoadhesin families of adhesion molecules. The absence of Neu5Gc, therefore, in tissues of humans and brain of mammals has raised interest, especially with regard to its impact on biochemical differences evident between humans and other mammals. It is suggested that though Neu5Gc conjugates are important in cellular interactions, their presence in brain and the central nervous system is deleterious to the latter's normal functions. Their interaction with other cellular components to form supramolecular associations is indicated that may have a bearing on major biochemical differences, a few of which are presently evident between humans and other mammals.

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N-Glycolylneuraminic acid, semisynthetic