Glycan Notation Standardized At Last

Glycans, sugar polymers that decorate proteins and lipids, mediate molecular recognition and signaling processes in cells. Because of their critical role in cell biology, scientists want to synthesize and study glycans. But chemical line structures of glycans such as the one above are difficult to interpret at a glance. To make representing glycans easier, scientists have developed two major graphical shorthand notations—the Essentials and Oxford systems—similar to the way amino acids are represented as single letters or sets of three letters, such as “A” or “Ala” for alanine. Carbohydrate chemists and glycobiologists have now agreed on an expanded and standardized symbol nomenclature based primarily on the Essentials notation (Glycobiology 2015, DOI : 10.1093/glycob/cwv091)