Sugar molecules under the microscope: The unexplored world of the polysaccharides

polysaccharides play in nature an important role. The sugar-building blocks of structured polymers, a variety of tasks to take. As the cellulose forming the ske

Sugar molecules under the microscope: The unexplored world of the polysaccharides

polysaccharides play in nature an important role. The sugar-building blocks of structured polymers, a variety of tasks to take. As the cellulose forming the skeleton of the plant, while insects such as the beetle, thanks to its stable brown deck wing of the polysaccharide Chitin. But especially for biological processes such as immune regulation and inter-cellular interactions, the sugar chains are of crucial importance. Because all body cells, bacteria and viruses also carry on their surface a kind of sugar fur. With the help of which the cells can communicate or pathogens recognize.

for a Long time, the polymers, sugar-based, also glycans were located, a kind of stepchildren of the research. Because of the lack of procedures to the complex molecules efficiently and investigate the manufacture. However, the Glykanforschung takes travel. So researchers at the Max-Planck-Institute for solid state research in Stuttgart and at the Max-Planck-Institute for colloid and interface research in Potsdam - Golm have developed a technique for the spatial structure of polysaccharides can be find out.

The new procedures allow it, the Potsdamer chemist Peter Seeberger to gain completely new impressions of the Glykanfaltung. Of proteins, it is known that the three-dimensional shape that results from folding of the chain molecule, is crucial for the function of a protein substance. For the polysaccharides, such a connection is suspected.

New boost to the sugar-research

the complex sugar molecules in their spatial form can capture to have disposed of the researchers working with Peter Seeberger, Klaus and core them first individually on a surface. They had to proceed very cautiously, so that the polysaccharides were retained their shape and not deformed. You atomized a solution of the respective substance with a fine nozzle. The molecules were ionized in a strong electric field and then onto a cooled copper surface is directed. After landing, you could scan the surface of the polysaccharides with a scanning tunneling microscope.

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reports such As the researchers in the journal "Nature", traced the tip of the microscope exactly to the height profile of a Glykans. Each sugar component of the chain molecule was significantly (see figures) to detect – similar to a dot in the Braille. So it was possible for scholars, the structure of the molecule, and to detect, for example, whether a chain molecule with six Sugar units was folded into a "U" or "Z" offset. Also, the micrographs showed reliably the shape of a branched molecule with a total of eleven blocks.

This research from Potsdam, and Stuttgart, the sugar could give research a boost. Polysaccharides have long been in the shadow of the other two important groups of biopolymers, the proteins and of the genetic material. About DNA and proteins and their functions in the body already a huge amount of Knowledge has been gathered. Because for both substance classes of automatic synthesis exist for many years, apparatus and sequencing machines. In addition, the DNA consists of just four different building blocks, and only 22 amino acids are sufficient to form all the proteins. In the case of polysaccharides, the situation is much more complex: they contain hundreds of blocks, and the chains are often branched. However, for the polymers, sugar-based, more and more tools are available.

As developed by the Max Planck researchers in Potsdam, already synthesizer for carbohydrates, the defined polysaccharides produce – a Central prerequisite for all analyses. With such a device, scientists have set a new record: they created a long chain made of hundreds of Sugar units and a branched Polymer, containing even 151 sugar units. The previous record holder from Beijing, had 92 blocks.

Updated Date: 03 July 2020, 12:19

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