Sulfated Polysaccharides Fucoidans

Polysaccharides widely exist in animals, plants, microorganisms, and algae (Yang and Zhang, 2009). They are polymeric carbohydrate structures, usually composed of various monosaccharides linked with different glucosidic bonds. Depending on the structure, polysaccharides can have distinct functional properties from their building blocks. Sulfated polysaccharides are among the most abundant and broadly studied polysaccharides from nonanimal origin (Pereira et al., 2002). They are widespread in nature. Seaweeds are abundant source of sulfated polysaccharides with various biological activities. Therefore, sulfated polysaccharides are of special interest. Most naturally occurring sulfated polysaccharides are complex mixtures of molecules showing wide variations in their structure as well as their activities (Alban et al., 2002).

Fucoidan (Fig. 12.1) is a sulfated polysaccharide mainly found in the cell-wall matrix of various brown seaweed species (Kim et al., 2010a; Teruya et al., 2007). It contains substantial percentages of l-fucose and sulfate ester groups (Jiang et al., 2010; Li et al., 2008; Matou et al., 2002). Fucose is a hexose deoxy sugar with the chemical formula C6H12O5 and is the fundamental subunit of the fucoidan polysaccharide. For the past decade, fucoidan has been extensively studied due to its numerous biological activities. Recently, researches for new drugs have raised interest in fucoidans. In the past few years, several fucoidans' structures have been isolated and many aspects of their biological activity have been elucidated (Li et al., 2008).

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