The extracellular matrix was long believed to merely be a static support with only limited influence on important decisions by the cell in growth and differentiation. In the 1970s, it was found that the extracellular matrix is dynamic, turning over at points of growth and morphogenesis. Merton Bernfield and colleagues discovered the first syndecans which connect across the plasma membrane to the actin cytoskeleton. The extracellular domains mediate many functions, including cell adhesion and the presentation of growth factors to signaling receptors. Syndecan plays an important role in obesity, cancer and bacterial pathogenesis.
There is a journal called Glycobiology which "provides a unique forum dedicated to research into the structure and function of glycoconjugates (including glycoproteins, glycolipids, proteoglycans or free complex saccharides) or on any aspect of proteins that specifically interact with glycoconjugate (e.g. lectins, glycotransferases, glycosidases)."