Molecules, Feb 2015

Glycosaminoglycans and Glycomimetics in the Central Nervous System.

Rowlands D, Sugahara K, Kwok JC


With recent advances in the construction of synthetic glycans, selective targeting of the extracellular matrix (ECM) as a potential treatment for a wide range of diseases has become increasingly popular. The use of compounds that mimic the structure or bioactive function of carbohydrate structures has been termed glycomimetics. These compounds are mostly synthetic glycans or glycan-binding constructs which manipulate cellular interactions. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are major components of the ECM and exist as a diverse array of differentially sulphated disaccharide units. In the central nervous system (CNS), they are expressed by both neurons and glia and are crucial for brain development and brain homeostasis. The inherent diversity of GAGs make them an essential biological tool for regulating a complex range of cellular processes such as plasticity, cell interactions and inflammation. They are also involved in the pathologies of various neurological disorders, such as glial scar formation and psychiatric illnesses. It is this diversity of functions and potential for selective interventions which makes GAGs a tempting target. In this review, we shall describe the molecular make-up of GAGs and their incorporation into the ECM of the CNS. We shall highlight the different glycomimetic strategies that are currently being used in the nervous system. Finally, we shall discuss some possible targets in neurological disorders that may be addressed using glycomimetics.


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