Sialic acids decorate all mammalian cells and play numerous important roles in cell surface biology. They serve as receptors of pathogens like influenza virus, that recognize these common molecular features of host cells. But they also serve as determinants of self for immune cell functions, allowing the immune system to distinguish between self and non-self. Our laboratory develops tools to explore the functions of sialic acids in biology. This talk will cover recent work on insights into the roles of sialic acids as a species barrier for influenza crossing from animals to man, and the roles of sialic acids as determinants of self in maintaining B cell tolerance to self antigens.
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