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Secondary And Tertiary Structure Of Polysaccharides In Solutions And Gels

D. Rees, E. J. Welsh
Published 1977 · Chemistry

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Many polysaccharide chains can adopt ordered helical and ribbon-like secondary structures. It seems however that these chains are often so stiff and extended that the cooperative interactions necessary for stability in the solvent environment can only be achieved when inter-chain as well as intra-chain interactions are favorable. Hence we commonly find two-or more-stranded associations of helices, of ribbons, or of helices with ribbons. These can be regarded as tertiary and higher levels of structure. The ordered secondary structure characteristically requires a regular repeating sequence of sugar residues, and the termination of this sequence by insertion of a residue of different type may also terminate the secondary structure and hence the association in which it is involved. This is the mechanism by which native polysaccharides may link up to form three dimensional networks, or gels, in which state they perform their natural roles in maintaining the hydration and integrity of biological tissues. For several polysaccharides there is evidence that the mechanism of biological control over the fine topology and properties of the gel network is mediated by enzymes which modify sugar residues at the polymer level to change the pattern of “interrupting” sugar residues.



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