Jukka Finne - Biochemistry and Biotechnology

Cell surface carbohydrates

Professor Jukka Finne, MD, PhD


+358 (0)2 941 59040

Department of Biosciences
Division of Biochemistry and Biotechnology

P. O. Box 56
00014 University of Helsinki


Polysialic acid

Polysialic acid is a neurodevelopmental antigen shared by the neural cell adhesion molecule NCAM and capsular polysaccharides of meningitis-causing bacteria. Its role in the pathogenesis of meningitis is not entirely known. Polysialic acid regulates cell interactions in neural and other tissues during development, and in learning and memory consolidation. Polysialic acid has a central role in many cellular functions, such as migration, cytokine response and cell contact-dependent differentiation.

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Altered levels of polysialic acid are detected in various neurological diseases, as well as malignancies including neuroblastoma. The objectives of the project are to elucidate the molecular basis of the regulation of polysialic acid expression, to identify the glycoprotein components carrying polysialic acid, and to investigate whether internalized polysialic acid could be used as a target for cytotoxicity of neuroblastoma cells.

Bacterial adhesion

bacterial adhesion

Meningitis-causing and other pathogenic bacteria attach to their tissue receptors by adhesin molecules binding to specific carbohydrate ligands on cell surfaces. Characterisation of these molecular interactions sheds light into the pathogenic mechanisms of bacterial diseases, and enables the development of new vaccines and new types of drugs that interfere with bacterial adhesion.

We use libraries of carbohydrates, synthetic inhibitors, enzymes and recombinant proteins to identify and characterise carbohydrate-binding proteins and determine their interaction mechanisms. Magnetic and quantum dot nanoparticles are also used to characterise the infection processes in vivo.