Polysaccharides are polymeric carbohydrate structures, formed of repeating units linked by glycosidic bonds. These structures are typically linear but can have various degrees of branching. Depending on the structure, polysaccharides can have distinct properties attributed to their repeating units.
Lead: Dr Stephen Cunningham, Dr Michelle Kilcoyne
Many bacteria produce polysaccharides, of which for some bacteria they function as virulence factors for pathogen invasion. To understand the role and function of bacterial polysaccharides, sufficient quantities of pure and well-defined structures are required. Utilising lectin arrays, we have undertaken to profile whole bacteria and extracts of their polysaccharide composition to identify and associated glycan signaturing with bacterial species, supported by NMR profiling. Establishing unique in-house protocols and generating propriatory polysaccharide specific reagents for detection and the continued advancing profiling.
Lead: Dr Michelle Kilcoyne, Dr Iain Shaw
Polysaccharides are also abundant in plant and marine sources and these are an as yet relatively untapped resource for these molecules. Isolated polysaccharides have been shown to have potent biological activities in a range of cell types and as such are a focus of identification of novel bioactive compounds for therapeutic use. Polysaccharides are under investigation for the modulation of the immune system that can be used to both reduce inflammation in certain diseases but also to potentiate inflammation which has been shown to be beneficial post-surgery. Using a range of high throughput strategies were are examining the biological roles of naturally derived polysaccharides, with a particular focus on seaweed-derived polysaccharides.