BB2420 Glycobiology and Carbohydrate Technology 7.5 credits

Glykobiologi och kolhydratsteknologi

Please note

The information on this page is based on a course syllabus that is not yet valid.

  • Educational level

    Second cycle
  • Academic level (A-D)

  • Subject area

  • Grade scale

    A, B, C, D, E, FX, F

Course offerings

Autumn 16 for programme students

Autumn 15 for programme students

Learning outcomes

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.  Knowledge of carbohydrate and glycoconjugate functions, structures, modifications and biosynthesis will prepare the students for problem solving in the areas of food, feed, health, energy and materials. Especially challenges related to sustainable development using carbohydrate raw materials will be emphasized. The course is designed to build upon and compliment the student’s knowledge of molecular biology/biotechnology, protein structure & function, and molecular enzymology obtained from other courses in the Biotechnology programs.

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: carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes).  The interactions of carbohydrates with various non-catalytic proteins (lectins and carbohydrate-binding modules) will also be covered.  Through specific examples and case studies, special focus will be placed on carbohydrate-protein/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, brewing, treatment of inherited metabolic disorders, and treatment/prevention of pathogen infection, including influenza.

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.

- understand and discuss the importance of carbohydrates for sustainable development.

- discuss ethical aspects of bioethanol production, enzymatic HFCS conversion, GMOs and lab-modified influenza viruses.

Course main content


Classical lectures (ca. 35 hours) will form the basis of the course.  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 to the students.  A certain amount of time scheduled for lectures will be used for questions/answer sessions and to go over 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 of the School of Biotechnology who are experts on specific course topics. 

 Assignments & computer graphics laboratory:

Throughout the course, exercises will be assigned which are designed to improve learning of various topics in the course.  These assignments will form the basis for in-class discussion, and 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. One lecture assignment and the computer lab assignment will give the students the opportunity to get bonus points for the final examination.


Admission requirements for programme students at KTH:
At least 150 credits from grades 1, 2 and 3 of which at least 100 credits from years 1 and 2, and bachelor's work must be completed.  The 150 credits should include a minimum of 20 credits within the fields of Mathematics, Numerical Analysis and Computer Sciences, 5 of these must be within the fields of Numerical Analysis and Computer Sciences, 20 credits of Chemistry, possibly including courses in Chemical Measuring Techniques and 20 credits of Biotechnology or Molecular Biology.

Admission requirements for independent students:
A total of 20 university credits (hp) in  Biotechnology or Molecular Biology. 20 credits of Chemistry, possibly including courses in Chemical Measuring Techniques and 20 credits within the fields of Mathematics, Numerical Analysis and Computer Sciences, 5 of these must be within the fields of Numerical Analysis and Computer Sciences, Documented proficiency in English corresponding to English B.


The primary text for the course is Introduction to Glycobiology, 3rd ed., by Maureen E. Taylor & Kurt Drickamer, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0 19 928278 1, and is available through Kårbokhandeln, the KTH student union bookstore ( Additional reading material will be distributed during the course.

PDF versions of the lecture slides will be made available after the lectures through the BILDA online resource.


  • TENA - Examination, 7.5, grade scale: A, B, C, D, E, FX, F

Requirements for final grade

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.

Offered by



Vincent Bulone <>

Supplementary information

Students are required to sign up at least two weeks in advance for examination.

The course is given provided at least seven students are admitted.


Course syllabus valid from: Autumn 16.
Examination information valid from: Autumn 10.