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Biochemical diagnosis of congenital disorders of glycosylation

Congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG) are one of the fastest growing groups of inborn errors of metabolism, comprising over 160 described diseases to this day. CDG are characterized by a dysfunctional glycosylation process, with molecular defects localized in the cytosol, the endoplasmic reticulum, or the Golgi apparatus. Depending on the CDG, N-glycosylation, O-glycosylation and/or glycosaminoglycan synthesis can be affected. Various proteins, lipids, and glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchors bear glycan chains, with potential impacts on their folding, targeting, secretion, stability, and thus, functionality. Therefore, glycosylation defects can have diverse and serious clinical consequences. CDG patients often present with a non-specific, multisystemic syndrome including neurological involvement, growth delay, hepatopathy and coagulopathy. As CDG are rare diseases, and typically lack distinctive clinical signs, biochemical and genetic testing bear particularly important and complementary diagnostic roles. Here, after a brief introduction on glycosylation and CDG, we review historical and recent findings on CDG biomarkers and associated analytical techniques, with a particular emphasis on those with relevant use in the specialized clinical chemistry laboratory. We provide the reader with insights and methods which may help them properly assist the clinician in navigating the maze of glycosylation disorders.