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Pathological glycosylation

Research group

Short description

Dr Niclas Karlsson’s research group is focusing is on the role of glycosylation in human health. Glycans are omnipresent in biological interfaces, including the glycocalyx on cell membranes, on mucosal surfaces that protects gastrointestinal, pulmonary and reproductive tracts and the joints in the muscoskeletal system. The group is applying state-of-the-art mass spectrometric and HPLC based glycomics of both N-linked and O-linked glycans to identify pathological alteration of the glycosylation.

Biolubrication in Osteoarthritis

We have a focus to understand how the altered molecular properties of the joint and synovial fluid glycoproteins influence the lubrication property. If we can understand this, we would start to understand more about the aetiology of osteoarthritis. The glycoprotein lubricin is heavily glycosylated and sialylated with O-linked glycans. Without them the joint cannot sustain a self-lubricating healthy cartilage surface. With osteoarthritis becoming a widespread disease in an aging population, we like to contribute with increased knowledge about the early stages of the disease. An early detection may prevent or slow down the development of chronic damage to the joint. 


Glycosylation in Ovarian Cancer

One of the deadliest cancers is ovarian cancer. As with other cancers, the ovarian cancerous tissue needs to escape immune detection. One of the protection mechanisms for cancer cells is to release heavily O-linked mucin type molecules to stupefy attacking immune cells. By doing so, the cancer cells reveal themselves. We want to use this to develop an early detection diagnostics based on O-linked glycosylation. This could increase the chance of success for cancer therapy for women with ovarian cancer.

Gastric cancer and inflammation

The main pathway to develop gastric cancer is via the infection from the infamous bacterium Helicobacter pylori. While most people are hosting this this pathogen, only a few percent will get chronic inflammation and subsequent stomach ulcer, and only a fraction will eventually develop into gastric cancer. The H. pylori infection is triggering an inflammation-induced sialylation of the gastric lining that is beneficial for the progression of the disease. At the same time the glycosylation of the healthy tissue is an efficient barrier and protection. We are interested in monitoring the glycosylation of gastric cancer patients in order to design precision therapy and surgery.


With more than 2000 different types of glycans analysed in the lab, we like to help other researcher in the tedious work of interpreting mass spectrometric fragmentation. In collaboration with some of the prestigious glycoanalytical and glycobioinformatical labs in the word (The National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) Prof Pauline Rudd, Macquarie University Prof Nicolle Packer, Soka University Prof Kiyoko Aoki-Kinoshita, Max Planck Institute Dr Daniel Kolarish) we can now offer the research community in collaboration with Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (Dr Frederique Lisacek) and Soka University (Prof Kiyoko Aoki-Kinoshita) to access the collection of structural/MS2 spectra data via UniCarb-DB and UniCarb-DR. If you want to contribute with your data, please generate a login at and start submitting your glycomic spectral data.


BioMS- glycoanalytical service

From a grant from the Swedish research council we are now open for collaboration in the area of glycomics. If you want to discuss the opportunity to apply glycomics to your research, we are offering analytical service at subsidised cost. Please go to for more information.

Niclas Karlsson porträtt

Group members

Chunsheng Jin

Kristina Thomsson Hulthe