MOTIVATION: The goal of deciphering the human glycome has been hindered by the lack of high-throughput sequencing methods for glycans. Although mass spectrometry (MS) is a key technology in glycan sequencing, MS alone provides limited information about the identification of monosaccharide constituents, their anomericity and their linkages. These features of individual, purified glycans can be partly identified using well-defined glycan-binding proteins, such as lectins and antibodies that recognize specific determinants within glycan structures.
RESULTS: We present a novel computational approach to automate the sequencing of glycans using metadata-assisted glycan sequencing, which combines MS analyses with glycan structural information from glycan microarray technology. Success in this approach was aided by the generation of a 'virtual glycome' to represent all potential glycan structures that might exist within a metaglycomes based on a set of biosynthetic assumptions using known structural information. We exploited this approach to deduce the structures of soluble glycans within the human milk glycome by matching predicted structures based on experimental data against the virtual glycome. This represents the first meta-glycome to be defined using this method and we provide a publically available web-based application to aid in sequencing milk glycans.
AVAILABILITY AND IMPLEMENTATION: http://glycomeseq.emory.edu
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.