HSs (heparan sulfates) are a complex family of cell-surface and matrix polysaccharides that have diverse biological functions, underpinned by structurally diverse patterns of backbone chain modification, especially by sulfate groups. These variant structures represent a molecular code, the ‘heparanome’, that confers the ability to interact selectively with a wide interactome of proteins, the ‘heparactome’, and thereby influence a network of cellular events. It is becoming increasingly apparent that understanding the structure–activity relationships of these enigmatic molecules requires the development of a holistic systems biology view of their structure and interactions. In the present paper, I describe some of the new tools available to realize this strategy, and discuss the future potential for the combined application of glycomics and other ‘-omics’ approaches to define the molecular code of the heparanome.

You do not currently have access to this content.