Frequently asked questions on glycocalyx

Frequently asked questions on Glycocalyx

  • Are glycocalyx and glycoproteins the same thing?

    • Glycoproteins are a type of integral membrane proteins which have a carbohydrate group in them.
    • The glycocalyx is the sugary coat formed over the cells. 
    • Carbohydrate group of glycoproteins take part in the formation of the glycocalyx, but glycocalyx and glycoproteins are different things.

  • What are the functions of glycocalyx?

    • Cellular identity and immune response: The pattern of glycocalyx varies from one cell to another. This unique pattern of glycocalyx acts likes a molecular signature that differentiates cells from one another, thus forming the basis for immune response.
    • Cell protection: 
        • Glycocalyx protects the cells from getting digested by the enzymes in the extracellular fluid by enabling the cells to adhere to one another in certain tissues.
        • Because of the hydrophilic nature of the glycocalyx, it attracts a film of fluid over the cells. This is particularly advantageous in the case of red blood cells as the film makes them slippery as they pass through the narrow blood vessels. This film also protects the cells that line the airways and gastrointestinal tract from dying out.

  • Where is glycocalyx found?

    • Glycocalyx is found on all the cells in human body.

  • What is glycocalyx made of?

    • Carbohydrate group from glycolipids of the plasma membrane and carbohydrate group facing towards the extracellular fluid from glycoproteins of the integral membrane proteins combines to form glycocalyx.

  • How is glycocalyx related to bacterial virulence?

    • Glycocalyx in bacteria are extracellular polysaccharides and exists in 2 forms: capsules and slimes.
    • Capsules form a tight, rigid layer closely associated with the bacterial cell while slimes are loosely associated with the bacterial cell.
    • Both forms increase bacterial virulence by:
        • Offering protection against desiccation
        • Providing a protective barrier against the penetration of antibiotics
        • Protecting against phagocytosis

  • Glycocalyx vs microvilli

    • Glycocalyx helps in adsorption of cells to other cells or surface (as in case bacterial capsules or slime)
    • Microvilli help in increasing the absorption of nutrients by increasing the surface area of the cells.


Disclaimer: Please note that all the questions answered above refer to cells found in a human body unless specified otherwise.

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