The initial contact of pathogens with host cells is usually mediated by their adhesion to glycan structures present on the cell surface in order to enable infection. Furthermore, glycans play important roles in the modulation of the host immune responses to infection. Understanding the carbohydrate-pathogen interactions are of importance for the development of novel and efficient strategies to either prevent, or interfere with pathogenic infection. Synthetic glycopeptides and mimetics thereof are capable of imitating the multivalent display of carbohydrates at the cell surface, which have become an important objective of research over the last decade. Glycopeptide based constructs may function as vaccines or anti-adhesive agents that interfere with the ability of pathogens to adhere to the host cell glycans and thus possess the potential to improve or replace treatments that suffer from resistance. Additionally, synthetic glycopeptides are used as tools for epitope mapping of antibodies directed against structures present on various pathogens and have become important to improve serodiagnostic methods and to develop novel epitope-based vaccines. This review will provide an overview of the most recent advances in the synthesis and application of glycopeptides and glycopeptide mimetics exhibiting a peptide-like backbone in glycobiology.
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