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Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2008;47(51):9814-59. doi: 10.1002/anie.200801204.

Natural-product sugar biosynthesis and enzymatic glycodiversification.

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Division of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Many biologically active small-molecule natural products produced by microorganisms derive their activities from sugar substituents. Changing the structures of these sugars can have a profound impact on the biological properties of the parent compounds. This realization has inspired attempts to derivatize the sugar moieties of these natural products through exploitation of the sugar biosynthetic machinery. This approach requires an understanding of the biosynthetic pathway of each target sugar and detailed mechanistic knowledge of the key enzymes. Scientists have begun to unravel the biosynthetic logic behind the assembly of many glycosylated natural products and have found that a core set of enzyme activities is mixed and matched to synthesize the diverse sugar structures observed in nature. Remarkably, many of these sugar biosynthetic enzymes and glycosyltransferases also exhibit relaxed substrate specificity. The promiscuity of these enzymes has prompted efforts to modify the sugar structures and alter the glycosylation patterns of natural products through metabolic pathway engineering and enzymatic glycodiversification. In applied biomedical research, these studies will enable the development of new glycosylation tools and generate novel glycoforms of secondary metabolites with useful biological activity.

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