Glycan structure parsing, alignment, and visualization
Wenjin Zhang (Mentor: Dr. Nathan Edwards, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University)
August 28, 2018, 2:00pm, Room 1300, Harris Building
Glycosylation of proteins and lipids is important for many cellular processes, mediating protein-protein and protein-cell surface interactions. For example, the glycans on bacteria, virus or even cancer cell surfaces can be used as targets for drug design. Glycosylation also affects the stability and folding of proteins. The informatics of describing and analyzing glycan structures poses many challenges – from parsing the monosaccharide descriptions that form the foundation of glycan descriptions, aligning monosaccharide motifs against previous described structures, and visualizing the relationships between related glycan structures. Working with glycan structures is challenging because, unlike protein and nucleic acid, glycans are not linear molecules, but branched. Furthermore, glycan synthesis is an enzyme-driven process that does not rely on templates, so the set of potential and observable glycan structures is poorly understood. Lastly, experimental technologies for the analysis of glycan structures usually provide an incomplete characterization of glycan stereochemistry and other molecular details.
Together these glycan structure parsing, alignment, and visualization tools will ultimately be integrated into the recently developed GlyGen glycomics portal.