TitlePromiscuity and specificity of eukaryotic glycosyltransferases.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsBiswas A, Thattai M
JournalBiochem Soc Trans
Date Published2020 Jun 15

Glycosyltransferases are a large family of enzymes responsible for covalently linking sugar monosaccharides to a variety of organic substrates. These enzymes drive the synthesis of complex oligosaccharides known as glycans, which play key roles in inter-cellular interactions across all the kingdoms of life; they also catalyze sugar attachment during the synthesis of small-molecule metabolites such as plant flavonoids. A given glycosyltransferase enzyme is typically responsible for attaching a specific donor monosaccharide, via a specific glycosidic linkage, to a specific moiety on the acceptor substrate. However these enzymes are often promiscuous, able catalyze linkages between a variety of donors and acceptors. In this review we discuss distinct classes of glycosyltransferase promiscuity, each illustrated by enzymatic examples from small-molecule or glycan synthesis. We highlight the physical causes of promiscuity, and its biochemical consequences. Structural studies of glycosyltransferases involved in glycan synthesis show that they make specific contacts with 'recognition motifs' that are much smaller than the full oligosaccharide substrate. There is a wide range in the sizes of glycosyltransferase recognition motifs: highly promiscuous enzymes recognize monosaccharide or disaccharide motifs across multiple oligosaccharides, while highly specific enzymes recognize large, complex motifs found on few oligosaccharides. In eukaryotes, the localization of glycosyltransferases within compartments of the Golgi apparatus may play a role in mitigating the glycan variability caused by enzyme promiscuity.

Alternate JournalBiochem. Soc. Trans.
PubMed ID32539082