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In most of the glycosaminoglycan molecules, hexosamine alternates with another sugar polymerized in a repeating disaccharide pattern. The predominance of the amine group in this configuration is the reason for the use of “amino-” in the term glycosaminoglycan. The common features of the group are obvious at first glance.

In particular, the location of the N-acetylamine group at the C2 of the hexosamine is common to all the disaccharides shown. The hexosamine is galactosamine in three of the four cases; keratan sulfate possesses glucosamine as the alternating hexosamine.

All except hyaluronan are sulfated at the C4 or C6 position of the hexosamine. Each disaccharide contains at least three hydroxyl groups. All except keratan sulfate contain uronic acid as the second element of the disaccharide, with a carboxyl terminal at C6. Keratan sulfate possesses galactose rather than uronic acid as the second half of the disaccharide.

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