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Biotechnol J. 2010 Dec;5(12):1324-38. doi: 10.1002/biot.201000217.

Carbohydrate synthesis by disaccharide phosphorylases: reactions, catalytic mechanisms and application in the glycosciences.

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  • 1Institute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering, Graz University of Technology, Petersgasse 12, Graz, Austria.


Disaccharide phosphorylases are glycosyltransferases (EC 2.4.1.α) of specialized carbohydrate metabolism in microorganisms. They catalyze glycosyl transfer to phosphate using a disaccharide as donor substrate. Phosphorylases for the conversion of naturally abundant disaccharides including sucrose, maltose, α,α-trehalose, cellobiose, chitobiose, and laminaribiose have been described. Structurally, these disaccharide phosphorylases are often closely related to glycoside hydrolases and transglycosidases. Mechanistically, they are categorized according the stereochemical course of the reaction catalyzed, whereby the anomeric configuration of the disaccharide donor substrate may be retained or inverted in the sugar 1-phosphate product. Glycosyl transfer with inversion is thought to occur through a single displacement-like catalytic mechanism, exemplified by the reaction coordinate of cellobiose/chitobiose phosphorylase. Reaction via configurational retention takes place through the double displacement-like mechanism employed by sucrose phosphorylase. Retaining α,α-trehalose phosphorylase (from fungi) utilizes a different catalytic strategy, perhaps best described by a direct displacement mechanism, to achieve stereochemical control in an overall retentive transformation. Disaccharide phosphorylases have recently attracted renewed interest as catalysts for synthesis of glycosides to be applied as food additives and cosmetic ingredients. Relevant examples are lacto-N-biose and glucosylglycerol whose enzymatic production was achieved on multikilogram scale. Protein engineering of phosphorylases is currently pursued in different laboratories with the aim of broadening the donor and acceptor substrate specificities of naturally existing enzyme forms, to eventually generate a toolbox of new catalysts for glycoside synthesis.

Copyright © 2010 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.

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