Polysaccharides, nature’s most abundant biopolymers, come in many forms and serve a multitude of different functions. For example, starch and glycogen are means of energy storage, cellulose and chitin confer structural stability to the cell and hyaluronan, ubiquitously expressed in vertebrates, influences cell differentiation, proliferation and migration. To reach their final destination, many polysaccharides are transported across the cell membrane. Translocation can occur either through a dedicated transporter or through a channel formed by the very same synthase that generates the polymer.
We are interested in studying the mechanism of polysaccharide translocation by using the techniques of structural and molecular biology. We seek to understand on a molecular level how these hydrophilic polymers, some of which can be several microns in length, cross the hydrophobic barrier surrounding every cell, how their final length is regulated and how we could alter these processes to produce polysaccharides with novel properties.