Complex carbohydrates consist of carbohydrate moieties and protein or lipid portions, resulting in the formation of glycoproteins, proteoglycans or glycosphingolipids. The polymorphic carbohydrate structures are believed to contain profound biological implications which are important in cell-cell or cell-extracellular matrix interactions. A number of studies to delineate the roles of carbohydrates have been performed, and demonstrated definite changes in their profiles, cellular phenotypic changes or, sometimes, morphological and functional changes in tissues after modification of their structures. Recent successes in the isolation of glycosyltransferase genes and their modification enzyme genes has enabled clearer demonstrations of the roles of complex carbohydrates. In particular, genetic modification of glycosyltransferase genes in mice can elucidate the biological significances of their products in vivo. Here, we summarize recent advances in the understanding of the roles of complex carbohydrates provided from studies of gene knock-out mice of glycosyltransferase and modification enzyme genes focusing on novel functions which had not been expected.
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