Discoveries of the structures of sialic acid and CMP-sialic acid (1957-1960): A letter from Saul Roseman

Ronald L. Schnaar, Yuan C. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Sialic acids have a special place in vertebrate glycobiology, where they constitute the dominant terminal saccharides on many cell surface glycans. From early studies that identified sialoglycans as receptors for important pathogens and toxins to more recent discoveries of sialic acid-binding proteins essential for immune system (and other) functions in humans, sialic acids and sialoglycans have become cornerstones in understanding vertebrate glycobiology and pathology. During a remarkable 3-year period in the late 1950s, a newly minted postdoctoral fellow (Donald G. Comb) and his young mentor (Saul Roseman) made a surprising series of discoveries that put sialic acid research on sound chemical and biochemical footing. A detailed personal letter written by Dr. Roseman that describes this period of intense sialic acid discovery, complete with inserted figures, was given to one of us (Y.C.L.) several years later. The text and figures of this letter provide a look back at the enthusiasm, rigor and serendipity that led to their important findings through the eyes of one of the key figures in sialic acid research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-517
Number of pages5
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • CMP-sialic acid
  • N-acetylmannosamine
  • N-acetylneuraminic acid
  • Sialic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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