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BB2420 - Glycobiology and Carbohydrate Technology/Course description (Kurs PM)

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This page contains detailed information for students and instructors of BB2420.

Alternatively, the complete document may be downloaded as a PDF file.


Glycobiology and Carbohydrate Technology will provide the student with an overview of carbohydrates (sugars) as an important class of biomolecules involved in numerous biological functions and industrial applications. The course is designed to build upon and compliment the student’s knowledge of molecular biology/biotechnology, protein structure/function, and biochemistry/enzymology obtained from other courses in the Biotechnology program.

Carbohydrate structure-function relationships will be highlighted using numerous examples from plant, animal, and microbial systems. Particular attention will be paid to the enzymes responsible for carbohydrate biosynthesis and biodegradation. The interactions of carbohydrates with various non-catalytic proteins (lectins and carbohydrate-binding modules) will also be covered. Specific examples and case studies will be presented to highlight carbohydrate-protein and -enzyme interactions in the context of important applications, including: glycoprotein pharmaceutical development, biofuel production, modification of wood and textile fibers, food production and human nutrition, treatment of inherited metabolic disorders, and treatment/prevention of pathogen infection.

Course goals

Upon completion of the course, the student will be able to:

  • describe carbohydrate structure on the mono-, oligo-, and polysaccharide organisational levels,
  • discuss the interaction of carbohydrates with other biopolymers as structural components in various cell types,
  • describe the importance of the pool of sugar phosphates as precursors in carbohydrate biosynthesis,
  • describe the molecular mechanisms of key enzymes involved in the biosynthesis and biodegradation of carbohydrates across diverse kingdoms,
  • discuss the structural diversity of carbohydrate-active enzymes and carbohydrate binding proteins in terms of their biological functions,
  • describe the biosyntheses of protein N- and O-glycans and discuss their diverse biological functions as key post-translational modifications,
  • discuss glycolipid structure in the context of cellular processes and disease states,
  • describe molecular details of selected examples of “carbohydrate biotechnology” in biofuel, biofiber, food, and medical applications,
  • understand contemporary research literature dealing with various aspects of carbohydrate structure, biochemistry, enzymology, and applications thereof,
  • use the complete knowledge base from the course in future studies and/or industrial employment involving glycobiology and carbohydrate technology.

Course format

BB2420 is worth 7.5 ECTS credits, which is equivalent to 200 hours of full-time study. As the course runs ca. 7 weeks, this implies that ca. 25-30 hours/week should be devoted to various course activities, including lectures, reading, assignments, and preparations for the examinations.


Classical lectures (ca. 35 hours) will form the basis of the course. A complete syllabus (schedule) is available as a separate document on the course website (see Online resources, below). Attendance of all the lectures is strongly encouraged. Lecture periods will serve as the primary mode of instructor-student interaction, including passing various practical information about the course to the students. A certain amount of time scheduled for lectures will be used for questions/answer sessions and to discuss practical assignments.

The majority of the lectures will be taught by the course organizer, Dr Henrik Aspeborg. Other lectures will be given by Docents or Professors who are experts on specific course topics. Please see the course syllabus for details.

Assignments & computer graphics laboratory

Throughout the course, exercises will be assigned which are designed to improve learning of various topics in the course. These will not be counted toward the final course grade, but will form the basis for in-class discussions. Further, successful completion of these assignments will greatly improve chances for success on the final examination. Similarly, a computer graphics laboratory exercise will provide important understanding of structure-function relationships in carbohydrate-active enzymes.


The student should have successfully completed the following courses prior to enrolling in BB2420:

  • KD1090 & KD1100 – Organic Chemistry I & II (or the equivalent of first-year organic chemistry)
  • BB1090 – Biochemistry (theory) (or the equivalent of first-year biochemistry)

In addition, the following courses are recommended, but not compulsory:

  • BB1100 – Biochemistry laboratory
  • BB2020 – Molecular Enzymology



The primary text for the course is Introduction to Glycobiology, 2nd ed., by Maureen E. Taylor & Kurt Drickamer, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-928278-1. This book is available through Kårbokhandeln, the KTH student union bookstore ( and various online stores. Additional reading material will be distributed during the course.

PDF versions of the lecture slides will be made available before the lectures through the BILDA online resource, see Online resources, below.

Additional literature

Essentials of Glycobiology is a useful online textbook published by the Cold Spring Harbor Press, which contains useful information complementing the main course text.

Examination and grading

The student’s final grade in the course will be based on performance on a final written examination. This examination will consist exclusively of essay-style questions which will test the student’s overall comprehension of the various topics covered in the course. The course is worth 7.5 ECTS points; grading will be on a scale from A to F, with A being the highest mark and F a failing mark.