Aims and targets - The Carbohydrate Sciences Group (CSG) of the institute is devoted to the elucidation of relationships between structure and biological activity and applied properties of oligo- and polysaccharides. By exploiting biochemical, chemical, and physico-chemical approaches, this unit deals with polysaccharides, with applications ranging from pharmaceutical to textile fields.
The group has given especially important contributions to the advancement of knowledge and to the development of new applications in the field of heparin and other glycosaminoglycans. Some of its major contributions (mostly in collaboration with international groups) have been: i) elucidation of the structure of the active site of heparin for antithrombin (AT) and pre-clinical development of a new commercial drug corresponding to that structure; ii) introduction and experimental validation of the concept that the unusual conformational properties of iduronic acid residues are determinant in protein binding and associated biological activities of glycosaminoglycans; iii) structural characterization of low-molecular weight heparins and heparin oligosaccharides; iv) determination of the conformation of heparin oligomers and assessment of their 3D structures in complexes with AT and growth factors, through molecular modeling and NMR spectroscopic studies.
Research approaches - The research group strongly emphasizes detailed structural analysis and targeted chemical/biochemical modifications as strategies for understanding the biological functions and pharmacological properties of oligosaccharides and polysaccharides and for modulating their activities. It pioneered the application of NMR spectroscopy to carbohydrates and carbohydrate polymers. It currently uses also advanced mass spectrometers for oligosaccharide sequencing and for carbohydrate-protein binding studies and exploits systems that permit determination of absolute molecular weights of single species and in biologically relevant complexes.
Facilities - The research activities are performed in the building of the G. Ronzoni Foundation. The CSG of the Institute has about 1,000 sq. meters of laboratory and office space, including chemistry, biochemistry (including a walk in cold room) and instrumental laboratories, fully equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation, dedicated to chemical preparations, biochemistry and structural research. Research facilities of the CSG include the LC-MS, chromatography, and physico-chemical laboratories and NMR Carbohydrate Centre and the access to the following facilities located in the same building:
• “7C: Consortium for NMR Research in Biotechnology and Material Sciences”
• “Integrated Laboratory” shared between Ronzoni Foundation, Bruker Daltonics, Bruker Optics and Bruker Biospin. The laboratory is equipped with one MRI Bruker Pharmascan, one EPR Bruker, one TD NMR Bruker (Minispec, 0.7 Tesla) and MS and FT-IR instruments.