ABO(H) blood group antigens were not only the first molecular polymorphisms described in the human population, but also represent the first examples of distinct carbohydrate modifications described on a cell surface. While serological approaches could readily discriminate ABO(H) and other carbohydrate-based polymorphisms, the actual biochemical basis for many of these cell surface carbohydrate antigens did not become apparent until many years later. Investigation into the biochemical basis of ABO(H) and other carbohydrate-based antigens resulted in the emergence of the field of glycobiology. Studies in glycobiology have uncovered diverse roles for carbohydrates, also called glycans, in addition to the enzymes and metabolic pathways responsible for their synthesis. Distinct changes in glycosylation can accompany a variety of disease states, from autoimmunity to neoplastic disease. Indeed, many carbohydrate modifications first described nearly a century ago have now become common tumor markers and may serve as unique targets in the development of cancer-specific therapeutics. In this session, a general overview of the complexities of carbohydrate biosynthesis will be explored, including general principles that govern glycosylation and how changes in glycosylation can contribute to different diseases. This will be followed by exploring recent developments in the biochemical basis of blood group antigens, ranging from ABO(H) to recently recognized blood group antigens, like FORS, PX2 and a new ABO related antigen, including their underlying molecular genetics and biochemistry. In doing so, this session will provide an overview of glycosylation and how these complex modifications continue to shape our understanding of fundamental aspects of a wide variety of disciplines, including transfusion medicine.
Discuss the vital role of glycosylation as it relates to protein structure and function
Explain the role of glycans in disease, including cryptic antigens exposed in tumor tissues
Summarize new findings in the biosynthesis and underlying genetics of carbohydrate-based blood group antigens
Associate Medical Director, Brigham and Women's Hospital Transfusion Service Medical Director, Brigham and Women's Hospital Apheresis Service Associate Director, National Center for Functional Glycomics