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Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences
725 N. Wolfe St.
Baltimore MD 21205
Molecular basis of cell-cell interactions in the nervous and immune systems; glycobiology
Our work bridges from biochemical to preclinical translational studies to harness the power of glycobiology for therapeutic benefits. All cells are endowed with a diverse coat of glycans, their “glycocalyx,” which represents the face of the cell to the outside world. Glycans (complex sugar molecules) and complementary glycan-binding proteins (lectins) interact in highly specific ways to establish cell-cell interactions and regulate cell functions. Knowledge of these interactions provides opportunities to modify glycan-lectin interactions for therapeutic benefit. We discovered glycans on nerve cells that interact with a lectin on myelin to maintain axon health and regulate axon outgrowth, leading to our studies that modified nerve glycans in vivo to enhance axon regeneration and functional recovery after spinal cord injury. We also discovered glycans that regulate immune cell function in allergic inflammation, knowledge that could lead to new treatments for asthma. Expanding technology in glycobiology promises expanding opportunities for discovery and development of novel therapeutics.
Schnaar RL. The biology of gangliosides. Adv Carb Chem Biochem 76:113-148, 2019.
Gonzalez-Gil A, Porell RN, Fernandes SM, Wei Y, Yu H, Carroll DJ, McBride R, Paulson JC, Tiemeyer M, Aoki K, Bochner BS, Schnaar RL. Sialylated keratan sulfate proteoglycans are Siglec-8 ligands in human airways. Glycobiology 28:786-801, 2018.
Li TA and Schnaar RL. Congenital disorders of ganglioside biosynthesis. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci 156:63-82, 2018
Yu H, Gonzalez-Gil A, Wei Y, Fernandes SM, Porell RN, Vajn K, Paulson JC, Nycholat CM, Schnaar RL. Siglec-8 and Siglec-9 binding specificities and endogenous airway ligand distributions and properties. Glycobiology 27:657-668, 2017.
Lopez PH, Aja S, Aoki K, Seldin MM, Lei X, Ronnett GV, Wong GW, Schnaar RL. Mice lacking sialyltransferase ST3Gal-II develop late onset obesity and insulin resistance. Glycobiology 27:129-139, 2017.
Schnaar RL. Glycobiology simplified: diverse roles of glycan recognition in inflammation. J Leukoc Biol 98:825-838, 2016.