2017 Volume 29 Issue 165 Pages E11-E18
Glycans are essential components of higher organisms, exhibiting highly sophisticated expression and complex functions. In particular, unique glycan structures are highly expressed in the nervous system, and play essential roles in higher order brain functions such as learning and memory. In this review, I focus on three unique neural glycans, namely, human natural killer-1 (HNK-1) epitope, branched O-mannose glycans, and bisecting GlcNAc, and describe regulation of their expression, what functions they exhibit, and how they are involved in various neural diseases including demyelination and dementia. Various mechanisms are involved in regulation of their expression, including enzyme complex formation, enzyme localization, alternative splicing, and (epi)genetics. Furthermore, mutant mice deficient for these glycans display improved pathology in demyelination and dementia, suggesting that biosynthetic pathways for these glycans could be novel targets for disease therapy. Further understanding of their function and development of new probes and inhibitors for these glycans may lead to future novel strategies for basic and clinical glycosciences.