Carbohydrates as one of the fundamental classes of natural products are essential both in a variety of biological processes and in human applications. Traditional ways of processing raw carbohydrates include both well-established physical-chemical procedures and fermentation. However, in spite of a large number of carbohydrate-active enzymes (glycoenzymes) discovered in nature and identified through bioinformatics only a limited number of them is applied as biocatalysts in industrial processes. Primarily these are polysaccharide-degrading enzymes such as glycosyl hydrolases and oxidases used in in baking, manufacturing of detergents and production of biofuels. Even fewer examples of glycoenzymes can be found in high value manufacturing applications such as biologics: one example is application of α-neauramindase for improving drug targeting in the production of the therapeutic Cerezyme. Therefore search for new glycoenzyme activities is essential for addressing the current gaps in certain commercially available specificities.
Our research is a part of the large collaborative project Glycoenzyme for bioindustries funded by the BBSRC and aimed o overcome the current limitations of glycoenzymes availability. A list of potentially useful glycoenzyme activities includes various glycosyltransferases, polysaccharide-modifying enzymes, glycosidases and sugar oxidases. In particular we are intersted in developing a subset of the glycoenzyme classes capable of forming glycosidic linkages. The prospect of exploiting such enzymes to build complex carbohydrates is a very attractive as this can afford products in a more efficient and greener way; it can also lead to the production of new compounds with a variety of functions ranging from drugs to polymers. The use glycoenzymes can help to utilize such cheap sources of carbohydrates as starch and cellulose waste in order to convert them into valuable products.
This work is supported by the BBSRC and IBCarb network.