Glycans are compounds that consist of a large number of monosaccharides. Glycans can be homopolymers or heteropolymers of monosaccharide residues and can either be linear or branched. Glycans are found on the exterior surface of cells and can be found attached to proteins as in glycoproteins and proteoglycans. In glycan analysis which seeks to explore the structure and functions of various glycans, high-resolution mass spectrometry (MS) and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) are commonly used.
Mass spectrometry (MS) offers high sensitivity and addresses the most frequent biological issues hence it is a valuable tool for the structural characterization of carbohydrates. Oligosaccharide structures can be explained through mass spectrometry and chromatographic separation derivatization. Some of the techniques used for mass spectrometry are Gas Chromatography coupled to Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS), Liquid Chromatography with Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS), Ion mobility-mass spectrometry (IM-MS) and the most frequently used, the Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS). The MALDI MS technique provides information about the mass weight of the glycans which can be used to give the monosaccharide structure in the pure oligosaccharide since the degree of accuracy of the technique is quite high. MALDI-MS facilitates placement of the terminal monosaccharides and linkages.
The merits of using the mass spectrometry (MS) technique are that; the method is applicable for small amounts and is useful for complex glycans. Otherwise, the process can be hindered by the lack of a chromophore or poor ionization properties of a chromophore.
Europa Bioproducts Ltd, a European distributor of unique bioproducts and reagents, presents the Gly-QTM Glycan Analysis system. Gly-QTM is a capillary electrophoresis system with an easily replaceable gel cartridge. The system has an accompanying kit which carries reagents that de-glycosylate purified samples. The released glycans are instantly labeled using the Gly-Q Instant dye and cleaned up using a 96 well plate and vacuum manifold.