Dismantling the bacterial glycocalyx: Chemical tools to probe, perturb, and image bacterial glycans

Phuong Luong, Bowdoin College
Danielle H. Dube, Bowdoin College


The bacterial glycocalyx is a quintessential drug target comprised of structurally distinct glycans. Bacterial glycans bear unusual monosaccharide building blocks whose proper construction is critical for bacterial fitness, survival, and colonization in the human host. Despite their appeal as therapeutic targets, bacterial glycans are difficult to study due to the presence of rare bacterial monosaccharides that are linked and modified in atypical manners. Their structural complexity ultimately hampers their analytical characterization. This review highlights recent advances in bacterial chemical glycobiology and focuses on the development of chemical tools to probe, perturb, and image bacterial glycans and their biosynthesis. Current technologies have enabled the study of bacterial glycosylation machinery even in the absence of detailed structural information.