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Glycogen is a highly branched glucose polymer which is involved in maintaining blood-sugar homeostasis. Liver glycogen contains large composite α particles made up of linked β particles. Previous studies have shown that the binding which links β particles into α particles is impaired in diabetic mice. The present study reports the first molecular structural characterization of human-liver glycogen from non-diabetic patients, using transmission electron microscopy for morphology and size-exclusion chromatography for the molecular size distribution; the latter is also studied as a function of time during acid hydrolysis in vitro, which is sensitive to certain structural features, particularly glycosidic vs. proteinaceous linkages. The results are compared with those seen in mice and pigs. The molecular structural change during acid hydrolysis is similar in each case, and indicates that the linkage of β into α particles is not glycosidic. This result, and the similar morphology in each case, together imply that human liver glycogen has similar molecular structure to those of mice and pigs. This knowledge will be useful for future diabetes drug targets.


Bin Deng, Mitchell A Sullivan, Cheng Chen, Jialun Li, Prudence O Powell, Zhenxia Hu, Robert G Gilbert. Molecular Structure of Human-Liver Glycogen. PloS one. 2016;11(3):e0150540

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PMID: 26934359

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