Cellular functions of O-acetylated sialic acids
Sialic acids are usually found at the non-reducing end of glycans, which means that they are located at the outermost of glycoproteins and glycolipids. This makes them ideal candidates for all kinds of recognition. Experimental evidence exists that modifications of sialic acids are correlated with the developmental status of cells, the development of the central nervous system, control of cell cycle, programmed cell death (apoptosis), and in the development of cancer.
In collaboration with the German Cancer Research Center we are investigating the role of O-acetylation in the differentiation of B and T cells and the control of apoptosis during their development. Moreover, in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth (UK) we are investigating the effects of a novel treatment for medulloblastoma, the most common brain cancer in children. This method is based on the induction of apoptosis by modifying the ganglioside GD3 with a sialic acid-specific endogenous acetylesterase.