Glycobiology and Disease


At the end of the course unit the learner is expected to be able to:

  • Associate the structure and biological function of glycans and the proteins that recognize them (lectins, adhesins);
  • Interpret the structure of glycans according to their class and biosynthetic pathway:
  • Determine the different ways in which glycosylation shapes the activity of immune receptors and impacts the immune response;
  • Classify the proteins that recognize glycans according to their specificity and biological function;
  • Name pathologies whose mechanisms involve glycans;
  • Refer advanced methodologies in glycobiology for the study of glycans;
  • Explain the basic principles of methodologies/technologies used to analyze the structure of glycans;
  • Interpret results of simple diagnostic tests used in clinical practice for congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG) and cancer;
  • Explore the relationship between glycan structures and the pathophysiological mechanisms behind certain pathological conditions (e.g. cancer and CDG);
  • List drugs based on glycans or glycoconjugates or on proteins that recognise and model them;
  • Formulate questions related to the diversity, function and recognition of glycans and their relevance in pathologies such as CDG, infection and cancer
  • Interpret scientific publications and to be able to provide a highlight in the field of GlycoSciences;

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Maria Angelina de Sá Palma, Paula Alexandra Quintela Videira


Weekly - 2

Total - 24

Teaching language



 Basic knowledge in Cell and Molecular Biology, Molecular Genetics, Microbiology and Biochemistry.


Essentials of Glycobiology –Varki A, Cummings RD, Esko JD, et al., editors. Essentials of Glycobiology. 4th edition. Cold Spring Harbor (NY): Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 2022-. Available free from: .

Introduction to Glycobiology –Third Edition Maureen E. Taylor and Kurt Drickamer, Oxford University Press, Inc., New York. 2011, ISBN 978-0-19-956911-3. Available to request in the library as a hard-copy.

Artigos científicos selecionados

Disponibilizados pelos docentes na página MOODLE da disciplina.

Teaching method

The Glycobiology and Disease Unit is organized in theoretical lessons followed by practical exercices. The theoretical lessons are given face to face through the presentation of content (Powerpoint slides and in English). Some lectures are given in a b-learning format. In this case, 3-4 short videos are made available per class, with the recording of the contents, and online forums are available through Moodle to promote teacher-student interaction.

In all classes the objectives and the concepts and skills to be acquired are highlighted.

The aim is to stimulate independent work and to develop a critical attitude towards the topics, promoting the students'' doubts/questions.

In some classes electronic instruments (mobile phone or computer) are used to promote discussion and interactive issues through the Mentimer programme as didactic and pedagogical tools.

The practical classes include the description and use of technologies and allow students to apply the knowledge by getting familiar to reference facilities within the FCT-NOVA namely the GlycoLAb to visualize glycan microarrays and the NMR laboratory, to follow ongoing  experiments and to work in the analysis of data obtained with concrete applications of these methodologies.

The teaching is in Portuguese or English language depending on the nationality of the enrolled students, and the slides are always presented in English language.

Evaluation method

Attendance at theoretical classes is recommended and there is compulsory attendance at least two-thirds of practical and theoretical-practical classes.

Grades are given based on these three parameters:

1) A written test with a weighting of 50 %, which includes material from the theoretical and practical classes. This test must have a grade higher than 9/20;

2) Presentation and discussion of a highlight on a glycan or glycan-binding protein with relevance to disease with a weighting of 30%;

3) Class participation, including tasks performed during practical classes, and tasks posed on the moodle platform with a weighting of 20%;

The final mark is given by the sum of the test mark, the mark of the presentation and discussion of the scientific highlight and the mark of the participation. This sum should be higher than 9.5 points to pass the course.

In the case of exam, the student must have attended the unit. The student can choose to take the exam of the whole subject, in which case it is valued at 100%, or only the subject of the test, in which case the exam is valued at 50%, keeping the mark obtained in the presentation and discussion of a scientific highlight and the mark of the participation.

Subject matter


Type of class/ Syllabus



Theory: Introduction to the curricular unit/ Introduction to Glycobiology.

Practical 1: Introduction to the practical component and bioinformatics tools/platforms made available in the unit - Formation of groups.


Paula Angelina Filipa


Theory: Introduction to Glycobiology: basic concepts of the structural diversity of glycans

Practical: Introduction to glycan identification and structure exercises and use of an international database to build glycan molecules (GlyGen).




Theory: Glycan biosynthesis - N- and O-glycosylation - ER-GOLGI secretion pathway and glycoprotein processing.

Practical: Continuation of the exercises on identifying glycans - N- and O-glycans and their function in the cell.




Theory: Advanced methodologies in Glycobiology for the study of glycans - from the molecule to the cell

Practical: Visit to the GlycoLab - Microarray facility. Virtual exhibition of a microarray laboratory, specialised equipment and methodologies




Theory: Glycan Recognition - Lectins and Antibodies

Practical: Analysing glycan microarray data - identifying fine specificity for glycans and discovering new ligands in infection




Theory: Glycobiology and Inflammation: Recognition of glycans by the immune system and immunomodulation. Inflammatory process and cell migration.

Practical: Flow cytometry - exercises (lectin staining)




Theory: "Glycan-mediated microbial adhesion" - e-learning session (moodle interface).

Practical: Moodle Quizzes





Theory: Molecular recognition of glycans by lectins in disease. From structure to function.

Practical: Visit to NMR laboratory




Theory: Glycans in cancer: biomarkers and treatment opportunities.

Practical: Analysis of tissue samples by immunohistochemistry and discussion.





Theory: Congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDGs) and human therapy

Practical: Clinical case discussion: from mutation to diagnosis/treatment




Two theoretical-practical classes: Presentation and discussion of scientific an highlight on Glycobiology

Paula Angelina Filipa