Carbohydrates are the most abundant biomolecules on Earth. Carbohydrates are polyhydroxy aldehydes or ketones, or substances that yield such compounds on hydrolysis. Many, but not all, carbohydrates have the empirical formula (CH2O)n; some also contain nitrogen, phosphorus, or sulfur. Certain carbohydrates (sugar and starch) are a dietary staple in most parts of the world, and the oxidation of carbohydrates is the central energy-yielding pathway. Insoluble carbohydrate polymers serve as structural and protective elements in the cell walls of bacteria and plants and in the connective tissues of animals. Other carbohydrate polymers lubricate skeletal joints and participate in recognition and adhesion between cells. More complex carbohydrate polymers covalently attached to proteins or lipids act as signals that determine the intracellular location or metabolic fate of these hybrid molecules, called glycoconjugates. This course introduces the major classes of carbohydrates and glycoconjugates and provides a few examples of their many structural, functional and biomedical roles.



After studying this course, students should be able to:

  • Explain what is meant by the glycome, glycobiology, and the science of glycomics.
  • Describe the biochemical functions and classification of carbohydrates.
  • Explain what is meant by the terms: monosaccharide, disaccharide, oligosaccharide, and polysaccharide.
  • Explain the different ways in which the structures of glucose and other monosaccharides can be represented, the pyranose and furanose ring structures.
  • Describe the importance physical and chemical properties of carbohydrates.
  • Describe the various types of isomerism of sugars.
  • Describe the structure and function of biologically important monosaccharides and their important derivatives (sugar acids, sugar alcohols, sugar amines, and glycosides).
  • Describe the homopolysaccharides of biologic significance and their structural and functional characteristics.
  • Explain the structural and functional characteristics of heteropolysaccharides including details of glycosaminoglycans; proteoglycans, peptidoglycans; and mucopolysaccharidoses.
  • Describe the roles of carbohydrates in cell membranes and lipoproteins.
  • Explain the importance of glycoproteins in health and disease.
  • Describe the principal sugars found in glycoproteins and the major classes of glycoproteins (N-linked, O-linked, and GPI-linked).

Course Material