Of the four building blocks of life – proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and glycans (carbohydrates) – the latter have received the least attention from researchers. This may be about to change as a new project, GlyGen, launches to help researchers answer glycan-related questions using big data.
GlyGen is the first project that integrates and harmonises glycan data from multiple international data sources, making it much faster and simpler for researchers to explore the data and perform unique searches. The portal currently contains glycan data for three species: human, mouse and rat. More organisms will be added in the near future.
GlyGen is a project coordinated by George Washington University and the University of Georgia, in collaboration with EMBL-EBI’s Protein Function Development team, which contributed its expertise in data science integration. The project is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“Before the launch of GlyGen, researchers had to dig through multiple resources to find information on their glycan of interest,” explains Maria Martin, Team Leader at EMBL-EBI. “Now, they can perform a unique search that simultaneously checks multiple resources. In addition, GlyGen also pulls proteomics and genomics information, offering a truly comprehensive picture for researchers.”
GlyGen allows researchers to ask a variety of questions, such as:
- What are the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of glycan X in human?
- What proteins have shown to bear glycan X?
- Which site is glycan X attached to?
- What are the orthologues of protein X in different species?
- Which glycans might have been synthesised in mouse using enzyme X?
- Which glycosyltransferases are known to be involved in disease X?
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