Engineering of the Glycocalyx to Influence Cellular Functions

Date(s) - 03/26/2018
3:00 pm

Kamil Godula, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Center for Excellence in Nanomedicine and Engineering, University of California San Diego

Glycans (also known as carbohydrates, saccharides or, simply, sugars) are among the most intriguing carriers of biological information in living systems. The structures of glycans not only convey the cells’ physiological state, but also regulate cellular communication and responses by engaging receptors on neighboring cells and in the extracellular matrix. Despite their structural complexity, individual glycans rarely engage their protein partners with high affinity. Yet, glycans modulate biological processes with exquisite selectivity and specificity. To correctly evaluate glycan interactions and their biological consequences, one needs to look beyond individual glycan structures and consider the entirety of the cell-surface landscape. There, glycans are presented on protein scaffolds, or are linked directly to membrane lipids, forming a complex, hierarchically organized network with specialized functions, called the glycocalyx. Our research program focuses on the development of nanoscale glycomaterials, which can mimic the various components of the glycocalyx, together with chemical methods for cell surface engineering to reveal how the presentation of glycans within the glycocalyx can influence their biological functions. In my presentation, I will describe our recent efforts in this area, placing emphasis on the applications of glycomaterials to provide new insights into the mechanisms through which glycans mediate cellular differentiation and host-pathogen interactions.


Ph.D. Columbia University, 2006
M.S.  Marquette University, 2000

Awards and Honors
Cottrell Scholar, 2017
Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, 2017
ACS PME Young Investigator, 2017
NIH New Innovator Award, 2015
NIH Pathway to Independence Award, 2011