Revised Glycan Nomenclature System

C&EN has highlighted the recent revision of the CFG (or “Essentials”) nomenclature for the structure of complex glycans. The revised nomenclature is posted on the NCBI site, which will be part of the upcoming third edition of Essentials of Glycobiology. The new nomenclature now includes a longer list of monosaccharides, which will be a welcome addition for anyone working on non-vertebrate glycans (especially bacteria or plants). There are also some changes to the use of color, with white symbols being reserved for unassigned monosaccharide stereochemistry (often the case with structures confirmed only by mass spectrometry). Colors are then reserved for specific stereochemistries of monosacharides, so a generic hexose is a white circle and Glc and Gal are blue and yellow, respectively. Many of these colors overlap with previous use in earlier nomenclature, so those that know the system for mammalian glycans should be able to read the revised system without much trouble.

If you need to draw your own glycans, the CFG site has a free tool for this: Glycoworkbench. Note that it still appears to use the 2nd edition nomenclature. The current link for that doesn’t seem to have an obvious link to the software, but you can find a version here.