Research Topic

The Role of Glycans in Immune Cell Functions

About this Research Topic

Glycans represent a major constituency of post-translational modifications that occur on most, if not all, proteins. Whether on mammalian or invertebrate cell surfaces, they exist as sugar chain moieties designed from the exquisite and coordinated activity of cell-specific glycosylation. Some of the more common glycan structures are linked to cell surface polypeptides via an asparagine (N)-linked residue or a serine/threonine (O)-linked residue, along with a notable contingent found linked to ceramides in the lipid bilayer known as glycosphingolipids. These glycans can associate with complementary glycan-binding proteins (GBP) or lectins to mediate and translate this carbohydrate recognition to cell function.

In immunity, there is increasing evidence that precise immune cell glycans are recognized by corresponding GBPs in a cell-intrinsic or -extrinsic manner. Unique carbohydrate recognition domains within GBPs are comprised of precisely spaced amino acid functional groups that allow for selective engagement of a particular glycan target. This structure-function relationship is present in immune signaling pathways, whereby glycans and GBPs on the surface of immune cells (and non-immune cells) help control processes such as immune cell activation, recognition of pathogens, suppression and tissue-specific migration. The diversity of glycan structures and glycosylation among individual immune cell subsets is controlled by the expression of genes involved in glycan biosynthesis including glycosyltransferases, glycosidases, glycan-precursor biosynthetic enzymes and nucleotide-sugar transporters. These genes represent more than 3% of the human genome, and cell-specific expression of these genes dictates a cell’s glycan repertoire, ultimately influencing its molecular interactions with GBPs. Altogether, these emerging lines of investigation highlight the regulatory capacity of glycans in immune health and disease, which in turn, pave the way for novel diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic strategies.

In this Research Topic, we seek to report and review the most current findings on glycans and GBPs at the interface between glycan biosynthesis, expression, structure, recognition and immune cell function. We welcome the submission of Original Research, Reviews and Mini-Reviews covering, but not limited to, the following topics:

1. The role of glycan-binding proteins in immune cells (including antigen presenting cells, innate immune cells. innate lymphoid cells, adaptive immune cells naïve as well as hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells.
2. Roles of glycans and glycan-binding proteins in infectious disease, inflammation and in the control of immune responses.
3. Glycomic and glycomic regulators of cell activation/signaling, differentiation/polarization, maturation, tissue-specific homing and cell death/survival in immune cells (mentioned above) and their progenitors.
4. Translational research for the development of clinical diagnostics, prognostics and therapeutics that target glycans or glycomes.


Keywords: Glycans, Glycome, Immune Cell, Glycobiology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Glycans represent a major constituency of post-translational modifications that occur on most, if not all, proteins. Whether on mammalian or invertebrate cell surfaces, they exist as sugar chain moieties designed from the exquisite and coordinated activity of cell-specific glycosylation. Some of the more common glycan structures are linked to cell surface polypeptides via an asparagine (N)-linked residue or a serine/threonine (O)-linked residue, along with a notable contingent found linked to ceramides in the lipid bilayer known as glycosphingolipids. These glycans can associate with complementary glycan-binding proteins (GBP) or lectins to mediate and translate this carbohydrate recognition to cell function.

In immunity, there is increasing evidence that precise immune cell glycans are recognized by corresponding GBPs in a cell-intrinsic or -extrinsic manner. Unique carbohydrate recognition domains within GBPs are comprised of precisely spaced amino acid functional groups that allow for selective engagement of a particular glycan target. This structure-function relationship is present in immune signaling pathways, whereby glycans and GBPs on the surface of immune cells (and non-immune cells) help control processes such as immune cell activation, recognition of pathogens, suppression and tissue-specific migration. The diversity of glycan structures and glycosylation among individual immune cell subsets is controlled by the expression of genes involved in glycan biosynthesis including glycosyltransferases, glycosidases, glycan-precursor biosynthetic enzymes and nucleotide-sugar transporters. These genes represent more than 3% of the human genome, and cell-specific expression of these genes dictates a cell’s glycan repertoire, ultimately influencing its molecular interactions with GBPs. Altogether, these emerging lines of investigation highlight the regulatory capacity of glycans in immune health and disease, which in turn, pave the way for novel diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic strategies.

In this Research Topic, we seek to report and review the most current findings on glycans and GBPs at the interface between glycan biosynthesis, expression, structure, recognition and immune cell function. We welcome the submission of Original Research, Reviews and Mini-Reviews covering, but not limited to, the following topics:

1. The role of glycan-binding proteins in immune cells (including antigen presenting cells, innate immune cells. innate lymphoid cells, adaptive immune cells naïve as well as hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells.
2. Roles of glycans and glycan-binding proteins in infectious disease, inflammation and in the control of immune responses.
3. Glycomic and glycomic regulators of cell activation/signaling, differentiation/polarization, maturation, tissue-specific homing and cell death/survival in immune cells (mentioned above) and their progenitors.
4. Translational research for the development of clinical diagnostics, prognostics and therapeutics that target glycans or glycomes.


Keywords: Glycans, Glycome, Immune Cell, Glycobiology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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