What are Glycopeptides?

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  • Written By: A. Garrett
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 31 January 2020
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Peptides — which are molecules of amino acids — that contain a carbohydrate called glycan are called glycopeptides. Due to the omnipresence of glycans in the cells of all living organisms and the role glycopeptides have in maintaining good health and warding off diseases, the field of glycobiology has emerged to study such molecules. Furthermore, glycopeptide antibiotics have been developed to treat certain types of infection.

Glycopeptides are produced via the process of peptide synthesis. During this process, glycans bond to peptides and link with other glycan-bonded amino acids until a chain is produced. The newly created peptides subsequently bond with proteins and lipids through glycosylation. This enzymatic process allows glycopeptides to influence biochemical communication between cells. Consequently, these peptides play a crucial biological role during an organism’s life span; cells create skin and organ tissues, fight diseases, and help the body maintain homeostasis.

Glycobiology seeks to identify the molecular structure of glycopeptides and further explore the function of such peptides in relation to other cells and molecules in the body. By determining how glycopeptides are structured and better understanding how they work, people working in the field of glycobiology may be able to produce treatments and therapies that improve health and prolong life. For example, glycopeptides contain qualities that must be broken down before cancer cells can spread; knowledge of glycopeptides structures could allow scientists to create a remedy or treatment that prevents glycopeptide deterioration and inhibits cancer cells from spreading.


Glycopeptide antibiotics are a class of antibiotics developed to combat certain forms of bacteria that have proven resistant to more common forms of treatment like penicillin. Vancomycin is a commonly prescribed antibiotic from this class of drugs. It is used to cure inflammation of the intestine. This illness usually results from deleterious bacteria in the intestines; vancomycin kills the bacteria. Antibiotics derived from glycopeptides have no efficacy against viral infections.

These drugs are usually administered directly into the veins via intravenous therapy or, in the case of intestinal infections, taken orally via pill. Since glycopeptide-based medications are typically viewed as a last-resort treatment to resistant strains of bacteria, a course of medicine should be taken until completion even if the patient begins to feel better. Otherwise the infection may return stronger and prove more difficult to treat. Glycopeptide antibiotics are not devoid of side effects. If administered in high doses, this drug could cause skin rashes or interfere with breathing by causing muscle tightness in the respiratory muscles.


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