Carbohydrate Polymers:Nature’s High Performance Materials

  • R. H. Marchessault

Synopsis

The term carbohydrate polymers describes the ubiquity in nature of molecular systems containing carbohydrates. The property of conformational restriction in polysaccharides make them candidates for being the initial self-ordering molecules of prebiotic evolution. This same property in the complex carbohydrate moiety of glycoproteins is the basis of carbohydrate-mediated information transfer through cell surface oligosaccharides interacting with each other or with lectin-like proteins in cell-cell recognition processes.

Exopolysacoharides in their capacity to induce synthesis of antibodies (i.e., as immunogens) or their reactivity with antibodies (i.e., as antigens) have been on the ground floor of the development of molecular biology. The oligosaccharide repeating unit is the chemical expression of immunological character and their availability for attachment to synthetic carriers is a first step toward manmade vaccines. The exopolysaccharide gums display ordering characteristics in solution which are not matched by the plant polysaccharides or synthetic polyelectrolytes.

Finally, the term carbohydrate polymers can be stretched to include natural polyalkanoates based on hydroxyl acids of carbohydrate origin. The chemistry and properties of poly-β-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) make it a biomass transducer. A material which is intermediate microbial systems. Its potential as a natural thermoplastic, a biomedical implant and a source of chemicals from biomass is described.

Keywords

Biomass Fermentation Carbohydrate Lignin Pyrolysis 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. H. Marchessault
    • 1
  1. 1.Xerox Research Centre of CanadaMississaugaCanada

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