Evolution in practice: converting hydrolases and transferases into phosphorylases

01 November 2021 → 31 October 2025
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Carbohydrates
  • Engineering and technology
    • Biocatalysis and enzyme technology
    • Bioprocessing, bioproduction and bioproducts
Enzyme engineering Carbohydrate-active enzymes Glycoside phosphorylases
Project description

Carbohydrates and derivatives hold great potential for numerous industrial applications. Yet, they are not being fully exploited due to the scarce nature of many of these compounds. Carbohydrate-active enzymes and especially glycoside phosphorylases (GPs) are promising biocatalysts for the production of these so-called rare sugars. Unfortunately, only a small set of phosphorylases has been discovered to date. This PhD project will address this issue by establishing a (generic) strategy that allows the creation of new GP specificities out of natural glycoside hydrolases (GHs) and glycosyltransferases (GTs). The underlying research hypothesis is that, since GPs have emerged from GHs and GTs on several occasions throughout evolution, it should be possible to 'switch' the function of present-day GHs and GTs as well. Sequence- and structure-based computational tools and semi-rational engineering techniques will be used to gain a better understanding of the structure-function relationships of these enzymes. Successfully converted target enzymes will further elucidate the requirements for introducing phosphorylase activity in GHs and GTs. As a result, the insights obtained throughout this project will strongly facilitate the development of novel enzymes for the synthesis of valuable sugars and glycosides.