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Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2000;35(3):221-51.

Structural and functional comparison of polysaccharide-degrading enzymes.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 35294-2041, USA.


Sugar molecules as well as enzymes degrading them are ubiquitously present in physiological systems, especially for vertebrates. Polysaccharides have at least two aspects to their function, one due to their mechanical properties and the second one involves multiple regulatory processes or interactions between molecules, cells, or extracellular space. Various bacteria exert exogenous pressures on their host organism to diversity glycans and their structures in order for the host organism to evade the destructive function of such microbes. Many bacterial organism produce glycan-degrading enzymes in order to facilitate their invasion of host tissues. Such polysaccharide degrading enzymes utilize mainly two modes of polysaccharide-degradation, a hydrolysis and a beta-elimination process. The three-dimensional structures of several of these enzymes have been elucidated recently using X-ray crystallography. There are many common structural motifs among these enzymes, mainly the presence of an elongated cleft transversing these molecules which functions as a polysaccharide substrate binding site as well as the catalytic site for these enzymes. The detailed structural information obtained about these enzymes allowed formulation of proposed mechanisms of their action. The polysaccharide lyases utilize a proton acceptance and donation mechanism (PAD), whereas polysaccharide hydrolases use a direct double displacement (DD) mechanism to degrade their substrates.

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