McGarvey, Glenn J.
Associate Professor, Chemistry
Molecular Glycosciences: Complex Glycoconjugate Synthesis and Carbohydrate-Based Molecular Recognition
Cell surface carbohydrates, typically conjugated to proteins and lipids, are key
elements in the cellular communication that is essential to cellular organization
and function in all organisms. Not only do these cell surface constituents mediate
normal behavior in cells, but they may also participate in molecular recognition
events that are associated with many serious human diseases, including rheumatoid
arthritis, viral and bacterial infections, and cancer metastasis. This provides
an extremely attractive opportunity for selective chemical intervention of cell
function through the targeting of specific cell surface carbohydrate structures.
A central theme of our research is the application of synthetic organic chemistry
to the preparation of appropriate carbohydrate structures in order to carry
out detailed structural studies addressing their recognition properties. The
highly complex structures of carbohydrates, particularly in the form of their
corresponding glycoconjugates, often challenge the limits of existing synthetic
technology and dictate the development of new methodology. As such, studies
addressing biological carbohydrates offer opportunities for discoveries in
both the chemical and biological domains.
One of the focuses of our efforts is the development of synthetic cancer vaccines
directed toward cell surface carbohydrate antigen structures. In this context,
the synthesis of complex oligosaccharides is currently under investigation,
as well as the development of new strategies for the assembly of unnatural glycopeptide
structures that may prove useful in the assembly of effective vaccines.
In other studies, we are endeavoring to exploit the dense stereochemical and
functional content of carbohydrates to generate new classes of molecules for
highly selective biorecognition. In particular, C-glycoside oligosaccharide/peptide
hybrids are being examined for specific cell surface and DNA recognition and
binding toward the goal of making available new methods for the treatment of
diseases and for the rational modification of biological function.