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Publications of the Week

Glycosyl Cations versus Allylic Cations in Spontaneous and Enzymatic Hydrolysis

By August 11, 2017August 14th, 2017No Comments

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 This week we profile a recent publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society
from the laboratory of Dr. Steve Withers (third from right, front) at UBC

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

We use the tools of chemical biology to better understand, and manipulate, the enzymes that synthesize and degrade complex sugars, ranging from well know polymers such as starch and cellulose, to the sugars that coat every mammalian cell and dictate its interactions with its environment.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

This work has allowed the first direct comparison of fundamental rates of two key classes of biologically relevant reactions: glycosyl transfer and prenyl transfer. On the way we have uncovered a new class of non-sugar substrate for the enzymes we most study, the glycosidases (aka glycoside hydrolases). This opens up potential to engineer these enzymes to carry out this reaction more efficiently, and to maybe incorporate these sugar mimics into glycans.

What are the next steps for this research?

The next steps are to try to evolve some of the enzymes to do this reaction much faster now that we know the fundamental reaction rates are the same.

This work was funded by:

I am funded by NSERC, CIHR and the NCE GlycoNet

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