The cell membrane plays an important role in protecting the cell from its extracellular environment. As such, extensive work has been devoted to studying its structure and function. Crucial intercellular processes, such as signal transduction and immune protection, are mediated by cell surface glycosylation, which is comprised of large biomolecules, including glycoproteins and glycosphingolipids. Because perturbations in glycosylation could result in dysfunction of cells and are related to diseases, the analysis of surface glycosylation is critical for understanding pathogenic mechanisms and can further lead to biomarker discovery. Different mass spectrometry-based techniques have been developed for glycan analysis, ranging from highly specific, targeted approaches to more comprehensive profiling studies. In this review, we summarized the work conducted for extensive analysis of cell membrane glycosylation, particularly those employing liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (LC-MS) in combination with various sample preparation techniques.
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