Only few detailed investigations have focused on the glycobiology of cranial development. The functional elements in most inductive and morphogenetic processes are not individual cells, but rather collectives of interacting populations and extracellular matrix components that give rise to specific tissues and organs. Experimental evidence strongly suggests that sugar chains not only confer morphological characteristics. Complex carbohydrate molecules and their corresponding receptors are involved in recognition processes decoding biological information during cranial morphogenesis. The distribution patterns of glycoconjugates are highly dynamic and show a clear correlation with characteristic structural modifications. However, due to the intricate interactions in vivo the definitive physiological impact of these observations has to be established in further studies. In this review, the spatial and temporal patterns of lectin-reactive epitopes and selected receptor types are presented and discussed with regard to their potential importance to physiological craniogenesis.

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