Research in the Glycosciences Laboratory is focused on carbohydrate chains (termed glycans or oligosaccharides) of cells that are of biological and medical importance. Dating from work with monoclonal antibodies directed to carbohydrate differentiation antigens, our speciality has been the discovery of oligosaccharide ligands for proteins of endogenous recognition systems, and those involved in pathogen-host interactions, and in innate and acquired immunity.
Highlights of our recent microarray applications include discoveries of the carbohydrate ligands for Dectin-1, the major defence protein against fungal pathogens, and the ligand for malectin, a novel player in the N-glycosylation pathway in the endoplasmic reticulum; assignments of the host cell carbohydrate receptors for polyoma viruses: Simian virus 40 (SV40), human JC virus and serotype 1 reovirus, also those of Toxoplasma gondii and other apicomplexan parasites; and the assignment of the human epithelial cancer-associated carbohydrate antigen AE3, and a prostate cancer-associated carbohydrate antigen F77.
The NGL-based microarray system is arguably the most sensitive in the world. This is indicated by the ability to detect distinctive carbohydrate-binding features of the pandemic influenza A (H1N1) 2009, that are exaggerated in mutants that emerge in the lungs of patients with severe disease.
The technology has found applications in elucidating in fine specificities of potent, the broadly neutralising anti-HIV antibodies that target the gp120 N-glycans cloned from HIV-infected patients, and of therapeutic antifungal antibodies being developed as anti-fungal therapies.