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Saturday 11 March 2006

Shorter polysaccharides with 2 to 10 monomers are known as oligosaccharides.

An oligosaccharide is a saccharide polymer containing a small number (typically three to ten) of component sugars, also known as simple sugars.

Oligosaccharides can have many functions for example, they are commonly found on the plasma membrane of animal cells where they can play a role in cell-cell recognition.

They are generally found either O- or N-linked to compatible amino acid side chains in proteins or to lipid moieties (see glycans).


Oligosaccharides are often found as a component of glycoproteins or glycolipids and as such are often used as chemical markers, often for cell recognition.

An example is ABO blood type specificity. A and B blood types have two different oligosaccharide glycolipids embedded in the cell membranes of the red blood cells, AB-type blood has both, while O blood type has neither.

See also

- saccharides (carbohydrates)

  • polysaccharides