SCCN – Structure and Synthesis of Carbohydrates Naples

Prof. Rosa Lanzetta

Room 1Mc24; phone +39-081-674148 Email;




Prof. Antonio Molinaro

Room 1Mc17; phone +39-081-674123 Email;




Prof. Alba Silipo

Room 1Mc01; phone +39-081-674404 Email;






Prof. Maria Michela Corsaro

Room 1Mc23; phone +39-081-674149 Email;






Prof. Alfonso Iadonisi

Room 1Mc18; phone +39-081-674154 Email;




Prof. Emiliano Bedini

Room 1Mc16; phone +39-081-674153 Email;



Prof. Roberta Marchetti

Room 1Mc25; phone +39-081-674147 Email;




Other Group members:

PhD Students and Post-Docs: Flaviana Di LorenzoAngela Casillo, Dr. Serena Traboni, Immacolata SpecialeAnna Notaro



Glycoscience embodies the cellular and structural biology of glycans and glycoconjugates, and makes key contributions to modern biology, biotechnology, and medicine, spanning from human health to agriculture and veterinary sciences. Cell surface glycans play pivotal roles in cell-cell interactions in all living forms. Glycans of host and microbes participate in disease, defence and symbiosis. Indeed, microbial recognition of host glycans, host recognition of microbial glycans, and molecular mimicry of host glycans by microbes, lead to either beneficial or detrimental outcomes. Microbes establishing symbiotic or pathogenic interactions use host glycans for adherence or invasion. Conversely, microbial glycosylated molecules are recognized by the innate immune system during early stages of infection, activating inflammation and host defence pathways. The outcomes of these interactions determine microbial clearance, disease or symbiosis. Glycans and glycoconjugates thus play key roles in the dynamic interplay (molecular dialogue) between host and microbes, but the molecular details of these interactions are not well understood, precluding us from the ability to modulate them in beneficial ways to mankind. Furthermore, the European Science Foundation and the U.S.A. National Academy of Sciences have highlighted the relevance of Glycoscience in two roadmaps of Glycoscience.

Our research group congregates international leaders in Glycoscience to train young scientists within a multidisciplinary framework focused on elucidating the molecular basis of microbe-host interactions involving glycans. SSCN addresses key processes at the host-microbe interface by interdisciplinary approaches converging on structure-function studies of microbial glycans and glycan receptors responsible for eliciting or suppressing the innate immune response in plant and animal hosts. SSCN combines different expertise in distinct aspects of Glycoscience including chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, biophysics, bioinformatics. The integrated and interactive combination of specialists from diverse areas will lead to innovative results in a process catalysed by mutual interactions.


Molecular Recognition

Glycans are the principal actors in the interaction of bacteria with the eukaryotic host, however, the molecular details of several host-pathogen interactions are still not well understood, precluding us the possibility to modulate them in beneficial ways to mankind.

Our research group is involved in the analysis of the manifold mechanisms of host responses to microbial infections with the aim to understand, at a molecular level, the basis of the complex interplay between microbial glycans and their receptors.

To reach this goal, advanced NMR techniques are used to characterize the binding mode of glycan ligands to host proteins as well as to deliver the conformations of the ligands in the bound state. Molecular Modelling approaches are also used with the aim to provide the ligands bioactive conformation and the structural features of the protein-ligand complexes. This approach permits to deeply characterize different systems of interaction, providing essential information on the structural requirements for recognition and binding processes, representing the first step for the possible development of novel therapeutics and diagnostics.


Carbohydrates from extremophiles

For a long time, "extreme" environments have been considered by scientists as a terra incognita since the harsh conditions characterizing these habitats were a priori regarded as incompatible with life. When researchers started to establish the physical and chemical boundaries for life, it became increasingly clear that these environments are not only copiously populated but that they may also represent the habitats of the first living organisms on Earth and perhaps on other planets.

These microorganisms generally cannot be easily cultivated in laboratory, and their biochemistry and physiology are largely unknown. One of the greatest enigmas, however, is how these huge microbial populations can survive in these harsh conditions. Bacterial adaptation strategies involve surface carbohydrates, both LPSs (lipopolysaccharides) and CPSs (capsular polysaccharides). Our research group can establish the primary structure and the structure/function relationship of these complex macromolecules in their habitats. Aim of this study is to understand the role of carbohydrates structures in such energy-depleted environmental conditions and to exploit their specific properties.


Synthetic carbohydrate chemistry

The main research topics on synthetic carbohydrate chemistry are:

  • structural modification of natural polysaccharides and glycolipids through new semi-synthetic procedures affording novel molecules with biological and biomedical added values. Within this frame, a special focus is given to regioselective sulfation of polysaccharides to obtain promising candidates for the development of new anti-coagulant or immunoadjuvant drugs;

Main collaborations:

Prof. C. Schiraldi (Dept. Experimental Medicine, Università della Campania "L. Vanvitelli", Napoli)

Dr. A. Fernandez-Mayoralas (Instituto de Quimica Organica General, CSIC, Madrid)

Dr. A. Zykwinska (Institut français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer, Nantes)

  • development of new chemo-, regio-, and stereoselective procedures for a rapid and cost-effective multi-protection of carbohydrates, with a special focus on solvent-free, one-pot protocols;

Main collaborations:

Prof. B.-J. Ravoo (Organic Chemistry Institute, University of Münster)

  • synthesis of bioactive carbohydrate derivatives, including substrates and inhibitors of carbohydrate processing enzymes;

Main collaborations:

Prof. M. Moracci (Dept. Biology, Università di Napoli Federico II)

Dr. D. Capasso (Dept. Pharmacy, Università di Napoli Federico II)].