The appreciation and understanding of the role that carbohydrates play in nature has grown over the last few years driven by the advances in our ability to analyze and synthesize their structures. Their role not only as primary energy-storage molecules but also as structural modifiers of e.g. glycoproteins and glycolipids, as well as in physiological and pathological events such as adherence, cell-cell interaction, transport, signaling and protection is becoming clearer and more accessible to researchers. Over the last decade the fields of glycobiology and glycochemistry in combination with in-silico applications have been augmented by a further field - glycomics. A major aim of glycomics research is to achieve a comprehensive identification and characterization of the repertoire of glycan structures present in an organism, cell or tissue at a defined time. The continual improvement of analysis methods and computational techniques leads to glycan characterization and identification with increased depth, speed and efficiency but also generates ever increasing amounts of data of variable quality and completeness.
Thus the many web-accessible repositories result in a highly fragmented knowledgebase which in consequence complicates the development and application of bioinformatics tools for the analysis of this data.
This situation has led to a general consensus that community wide efforts should be spent towards consolidating and systematizing the collective knowledgebase with integration of universal bioinformatics tools for both the representation, mining as well as annotation of experimental data sets to advance and interface glycomics with related genomics and proteomics projects. Additionally, both experimentalists and bioinformaticians also expressed their demands for data reporting practices that include the comprehensive description of conditions, techniques and experimental results to enable researchers to evaluate the degree of structural definitions, to interpret the results and to reproduce the experiments.
This 3rd Beilstein Glyco-Bioinformatics Symposium brought together those scientists that produce data with those that use the data and make it available to the community. In particular, in their presentations speakers delivered insights into the diverse physiological and structural subtleties of sugars by covering aspects such as: structure-function relationships of carbohydrates, modeling carbohydrate structure and carbohydrate interactions with other biomacromolecules, deciphering carbohydrate signals, carbohydrate identification, annotation and analysis, metadata for the description of glycomics experiments, software tools for data mining and analysis.