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Mucopolysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules that are found throughout the body, often in mucus and in fluid around the joints. They are more commonly called glycosaminoglycans.


When the body cannot break down mucopolysaccharides, a condition called mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS) occurs. MPS refers to a group of inherited disorders of metabolism. People with MPS do not have any, or enough, of a substance (enzyme) needed to break down the sugar molecule chains.

Forms of MPS include:

These conditions cause mucopolysaccharides to build up in body tissues. This can damage organs, including the heart. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Abnormal features of the face
  • Bone, cartilage, and connective tissue deformities
  • Mental disability

Alternative Names

Glycosaminoglycans; GAG


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Mucolipidoses Fact Sheet. Bethesda, MD: Office of Communications and Public Liaison; February 13, 2007. Publication No. 03-5115.

Pyeritz RE. Inherited diseases of connective tissue. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 260.

Spranger J. Mucopolysaccharidoses. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 82.

Wraith JE. Mucopolysaccharidoses and oligosaccharidoses. In: Saudubray J-M, van den Berghe G, Walter JH, eds. Inborn Metabolic Diseases: Diagnosis and Treatment. 5th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2012:chap 40.

Update Date 4/20/2015