Wesley Zandberg

Associate Professor

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry
Office: SCI 209
Phone: 250.807.9821
Email: wesley.zandberg@ubc.ca

Graduate student supervisor

Research Summary

Analytical glycobiology: the use of modern instrumental techniques to study carbohydrates, their oligomers (glycans) and their metabolism; developing new methods to investigate carbohydrates; and using chemical and analytical tools to investigate the functions of protein-linked glycans in cells and animals.

Courses & Teaching

Instrumental analytical chemistry


PhD, Simon Fraser University
BSc, Trinity Western University

Research Interests & Projects

Carbohydrates are one of the four major classes of macromolecules essential for life. In one of the most important biochemical processes on Earth, photosynthesis, plants and algae use the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into the carbohydrate glucose which in turn is incorporated into polymers (generically called glycans) such as starch. Nearly all living creatures derive their energy from the metabolism of glucose. But carbohydrates are not just a source of energy! The cells of organisms from all domains of life are coated with a dense, complex array of glycans that are chemically linked to proteins and lipids on the cell surface. Unlike starch, these cell-surface glycans are composed of up to ten different carbohydrates (in animals) that are linked together by enzymes in a myriad of different structures, differing not only in their carbohydrate constituents, but also in the configuration and spatial orientation (ie. stereochemistry) in which the monomers are arranged. Cell-surface glycans mediate the interactions between cells and the external environment and accordingly play a role in many important biological phenomena. Indeed, it is now appreciated that this diverse class of molecules functions like a code that conveys information about a cell. In Nature, this code is deciphered by host of glycan-binding proteins. Familiar examples of this are the ABO blood groups and the preference viruses and bacteria show for infecting only specific cell types. In the lab, it is a chief objective of glycoscience to “crack” this glycan code and to elucidate how the different glycans displayed by cells contributes to the etiology of both healthy and diseased states. The members of the Zandberg Lab address these questions using two interdisciplinary approaches: Analytical and Chemical Glycoscience

Analytical Glycoscience

Analytical glycoscience seeks to develop sensitive tools and techniques to characterize the complex structures of often minute quantities of glycans and track their changes over time. Their immense diversity makes the complete characterization of a cell’s (or organism’s) glycans a significant challenge, taxing the capabilities of current technology. No single analytical technique yields a complete picture of the glycans of even a single cell. A key objective of our lab is to combine capillary electrophoresis (CE) and mass spectrometry (MS) into a sensitive and high resolution method for glycan analysis. As a complement to the development of improved hyphenated analytical methods, we are also interested in devising more efficient sample preparation techniques.

Chemical Glycoscience

Chemical glycoscience seeks to decipher glycan function by perturbing their biosynthesis in living systems such as cultured cells or animals. To explore the roles played by glycans in diverse biological phenomena, our lab members: (i) investigate the effects of known chemical inhibitors of glycan processing enzymes (ii) synthesize and test new inhibitors (iii) devise assays to explore the functions of glycan biosynthetic enzymes and (iv) develop new methods for identifying glycan-binding proteins and their target.

Prospective Students

We are currently looking for graduate and undergraduate students to join our interdisciplinary team. Anyone interested may contact Dr. Wesley Zandberg by email at wesley.zandberg@ubc.ca

Selected Publications & Presentations

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