What is N-acetylglucosamine?

N-acetylglucosamine, or N-acetyl-α-D-glucosamine, alpha-GlcNAc, or NAG; is an amino sugar derivative of glucose.

The amino sugar N-acetylglucosamine, GlcNac, plays an important structural role at cell surfaces. In addition, recent studies suggested that this amino sugar also plays a role in cell signaling. For examp[le, in Candida albicans, a human fungal pathogen, GlcNAc stimulates the pathogen to undergo morphogenesis and to express virulence genes. The stimulated fungus switches from growing as a unicellular budding yeast to form multicellular, filamentous hyphal cells.

Scientific studies involving animal cells revealed that GlcNAc is a posttranslational modification that influences cell signaling through glycosylation of proteins. Glycosylation occurs through the O-linked attachment of GlcNAc to Ser and Thr residues. This glycosylation event appears to regulate a variety of intracellular proteins such as the transcription factors NFB, c-myc, and p53.


James B. Konopka; N-Acetylglucosamine Functions in Cell Signaling. Review Article. Hindawi Publishing Corporation. Scientifica. Volume 2012, Article ID 489208, 15 pages.