The sugar code: fundamentals of glycosciences

The sugar code: fundamentals of glycosciences

Hans-Joachim Gabius (ed)

Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH 2009 | 569pp | ?55.00 (HB)

ISBN 9783527320899 

Reviewed by Tony Day


This textbook is focused on sugars (aka carbohydrates or saccharides), major constituents of organic macromolecules, which have a fundamental role in encoding and storing information. In recent years there has been a rapid increase in the understanding of this sugar code and how the vast repertoire of glycan structures contributes to biological function. 

I have enjoyed reviewing this book with its comprehensive coverage of all major aspects of the glycosciences. Given their highly interdisciplinary nature (from chemistry and biochemistry, to biophysics, biology and medicine), this is an impressive achievement. It is aimed at introducing the glycosciences to undergraduate and graduate students as well as providing a useful reference companion to researchers in academia and industry. I will certainly find it useful to dip in and out of.

The book is well written and easy to read and I particularly like the info boxes, summary boxes at the end of chapters and the 30-page glossary allowing one to quickly extract information. However, in places it is lacking in detail. For example, my main areas of interest, namely the glycosaminoglycan hyaluronan and proteoglycans, are not covered as well as they are in the second edition of Essentials of glycobiology published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press in 2008 (ISBN 9780879697709), but this is a relatively minor criticism. 

One disappointing aspect is the lack of any colour printing, which I have no doubt would have greatly increased the clarity in certain cases (for example, in the chapter on  -glycosylation).  

However, the companion website, aimed at students and lecturers, allows the downloading of all figures, many of which are reproduced in colour; this provides a useful resource for teaching purposes, which I expect to make use of in my glycobiology lectures at the University of Manchester.

Overall, The sugar code is a useful and timely addition to the teaching of the glycosciences.