An Overview of the Importance and Value of Porcine Species in Sialic Acid Research
Humans frequently interact with pigs, whose meat is also one of the primary sources of animal protein. They are one of the main species at the center of sialic acid (Sia) research. Sias are sugars at terminals of glycoconjugates, are expressed at the cell surfaces of mammals, and are important in cellular interactions. N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) and N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) are notable Sias in mammals. Cytidine monophospho-N-acetylneuraminic acid hydroxylase (CMAH) encodes the CMAH enzyme that biosynthesizes Neu5Gc. Although humans cannot endogenously synthesize Neu5Gc due to the inactivation of this gene by a mutation, Neu5Gc can be metabolically incorporated into human tissues from red meat consumption. Interactions between Neu5Gc and human anti-Neu5Gc antibodies have been associated with certain diseases and disorders. In this review, we summarized the sialic acid metabolic pathway, its regulation and link to viral infections, as well as the importance of the pig as a model organism in Sia research, making it a possible source of Neu5Gc antigens affecting human health. Future research in solving the structures of crucial enzymes involved in Sia metabolism, as well as their regulation and interactions with other enzymes, especially CMAH, could help to understand their function and reduce the amount of Neu5Gc.