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Saccharide is another term used for the word sugar - and an oligosaccharide commonly refers to a carbohydrate polymer whose molecules are composed of a relatively small number of monosaccharide units [1]. The parameters for an oligosaccharide vary, however they are typically counted as any sugar with between 3 and 9 monosaccharide units.

Common oligosaccharides include glucose, fructose and galactose - which can often be bonded together through 1,4 glycosidic bonds to create disaccharides such as maltose, sucrose and lactose.

Oligosaccharides have many functions in humans and the most commonly investigated is their effect on animal cell plasma membranes where they play an important role in cell - cell recognition.[2] 


  1. Jeremy M. Berg, John L. Tymoczko, Lubert Stryer . Biochemistry Seventh Edition Freeman
  2. Bruce Alberts, Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis, Martin Raff, Keith Roberts, Peter Walter. Molecular Biology of the Cell, Fifth edition.
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