New web tool makes working with glycan sugars a lot sweeter

July 11, 2014, National Institute of Standards and Technology
New NIST web tool makes working with glycan sugars a lot sweeter
This image shows immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody molecule with glycan attached. The inset shows glycan structure. Credit: RCSB Protein Data Bank

When researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) need a special tool to do their work more effectively, they often prove that necessity is truly the mother of invention. Such was the case recently for M. Lorna De Leoz and Stephen Stein, NIST chemists working in the growing specialization of glycomics. Glycomics is the study of the abundant, often-branched sugar chains called glycans that are attached to proteins and lipids and influence cellular processes, including immunity, protein folding and, sometimes, changes associated with cancer.

Like their fellow scientists in the glycomics field, De Leoz and Stein rely heavily on mass spectral (MS) analyses that yield "" used to characterize the mass, composition and organization of individual glycan molecules. The human body produces thousands of different glycans and, unfortunately, MS analysis is slow and laborious, involving lots of number crunching by hand. Out of their frustration with this low-tech system for calculating high-tech MS data, the NIST duo came up with a tool that automates most of the process.

Their new Glyco MS Calculator automatically determines the mass of individual glycan components and breaks them down element-by-element. Designed in a spreadsheet format, the user inputs the number of residues (the individual units that make up a polymer; in this case, the monosaccharide sugars in the polysaccharide chain) in the glycan and the program calculates the masses and elemental composition within the molecule. It also provides mass and composition for glycans that are chemically modified. Finally, the calculator generates the mass of molecules formed as byproducts of mass spectrometry so that they can be considered when interpreting the MS data.

Explore further: Specific sugar molecule causes growth of cancer cells

More information:

Related Stories

Specific sugar molecule causes growth of cancer cells

September 16, 2013
The process of glycosylation, where sugar molecules are attached to proteins, has long been of interest to scientists, particularly because certain sugar molecules are present in very high numbers in cancer cells. It now ...

Recommended for you

Human 'chimeric' cells restore crucial protein in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

March 16, 2018
Cells made by fusing a normal human muscle cell with a muscle cell from a person with Duchenne muscular dystrophy —a rare but fatal form of muscular dystrophy—were able to significantly improve muscle function when implanted ...

Team develops 3-D tissue model of a developing human heart

March 16, 2018
The heart is the first organ to develop in the womb and the first cause of concern for many parents.

Democratizing science: Researchers make neuroscience experiments easier to share, reproduce

March 16, 2018
Over the past few years, scientists have faced a problem: They often cannot reproduce the results of experiments done by themselves or their peers.

Genetic variant discovery to help asthma sufferers

March 16, 2018
Research from the University of Liverpool, published today in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, identifies a genetic variant that could improve the safety and effectiveness of corticosteroids, drugs that are used to treat a range ...

Researchers say use of artificial intelligence in medicine raises ethical questions

March 15, 2018
In a perspective piece, Stanford researchers discuss the ethical implications of using machine-learning tools in making health care decisions for patients.

Study identifies potential drug for treatment of debilitating inherited neurological disease

March 15, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have demonstrated in mouse studies that the neurological disease spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) can be successfully treated with drugs. The finding paves the way for ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.