Oligosaccharides provide specific recognition epitopes that can initiate biological function, particularly when the sugars are attached to secreted or cell-surface glycoproteins. It is therefore essential that, in any given physiological state, glycan processing and the relative proportions of different glycoform populations are reproducible so that the sugars can perform their functions effectively and without error. In contrast with the direct template control exerted on protein expression by DNA, appropriate glycosylation processing depends on the integrated, optimal functioning of many cellular pathways.

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