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5.1: Structure and Function- Carbohydrates

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    Figure 2.171 - Repeating unit of amylose

    Endogenous glycation, on the other hand, arises with a frequency that is proportional to the concentration of free sugar in the body. These occur most frequently with fructose, galactose, and glucose in that decreasing order and are detected in the bloodstream. Both proteins and lipids can be glycated and the accumulation of endogenous advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) is associated with Type 2 diabetes, as well as in increases in cardiovascular disease (damage to endothelium, cartilage, and fibrinogen), peripheral neuropathy (attack of myelin sheath), and deafness (loss of myelin sheath).

    The formation of AGEs increases oxidative stress, but is also thought to be exacerbated by it. Increased oxidative stress, in turn causes additional harm. Damage to collagen in blood cells causes them to stiffen and weaken and is a factor in hardening of the arteries and formation of aneurysms, respectively. One indicator of diabetes is increased glycation of hemoglobin in red blood cells, since circulating sugar concentration are high in the blood of diabetics. Hemoglobin glycation is measured in testing for blood glucose control in diabetic patients.

    Homopolymer Monomeric Unit
    Glycogen Glucose
    Cellulose Glucose
    Amylose Glucose
    Callose Glucose
    Chitin N-acetylglucosamine
    Xylan Xylose
    Mannan Mannose
    Chrysolaminarin Glucose
    Figure 2.189). Along with the proteoglycan called lubricin, hyaluronic acid turns water into lubricating material. Hyaluronic acid is present as a coat around each cell of articular cartilage and forms complexes with proteoglycans that absorb water, giving resilience (resistance to compression) to cartilage. Aging causes a decrease in size of hyaluronans, but an increase in concentration.

    Function in skin

    Hyaluronic acid is a major component of skin and has functions in tissue repair. With exposure to excess UVB radiation, cells in the dermis produce less hyaluronan and increase its degradation.

    For some cancers the plasma level of hyaluronic acid correlates with malignancy. Hyaluronic acid levels have been used as a marker for prostate and breast cancer and to follow disease progression. The compound can to used to induce healing after cataract surgery. Hyaluronic acid is also abundant in the granulation tissue matrix that replaces a fibrin clot during the healing of wounds. In wound healing, it is thought that large polymers of hyaluronic acid appear early and they physically make room for white blood cells to mediate an immune response.


    Breakdown of hyaluronic acid is catalyzed by enzymes known as hyaluronidases. Humans have seven types of such enzymes, some of which act as tumor suppressors. Smaller hyaluronan fragments can induce inflammatory response in macrophages and dendritic cells after tissue damage. They can also perform proangiogenic functions.


    Glycosaminoglycans are commonly found attached to proteins and these are referred to as proteoglycans. Linkage between the protein and the glycosaminoglycan is made through a serine side-chain. Proteoglycans are made by glycosylation of target proteins in the Golgi apparatus.

    This page titled 5.1: Structure and Function- Carbohydrates is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kevin Ahern, Indira Rajagopal, & Taralyn Tan.