Unusual enzymatic glycoside cleavage mechanisms

S.A.K. Jongkees, S.G. Withers

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Over the sixty years since Koshland initially formulated the classical mechanisms for retaining and inverting glycosidases, researchers have assembled a large body of supporting evidence and have documented variations of these mechanisms. Recently, however, researchers have uncovered a number of completely distinct mechanisms for enzymatic cleavage of glycosides involving elimination and/or hydration steps.In family GH4 and GH109 glycosidases, the reaction proceeds via transient NAD+-mediated oxidation at C3, thereby acidifying the proton at C2 and allowing for elimination across the C1-C2 bond. Subsequent Michael-type addition of water followed by reduction at C3 generates the hydrolyzed product. Enzymes employing this mechanism can hydrolyze thioglycosides as well as both anomers of activated substrates.Sialidases employ a conventional retaining mechanism in which a tyrosine functions as the nucleophile, but in some cases researchers have observed off-path elimination end products. These reactions occur via the normal covalent intermediate, but instead of an attack by water on the anomeric center, the catalytic acid/base residue abstracts an adjacent proton. These enzymes can also catalyze hydration of the enol ether via the reverse pathway.Reactions of α-(1,4)-glucan lyases also proceed through a covalent intermediate with subsequent abstraction of an adjacent proton to give elimination. However, in this case, the departing carboxylate "nucleophile" serves as the base in a concerted but asynchronous syn-elimination process. These enzymes perform only elimination reactions.Polysaccharide lyases, which act on uronic acid-containing substrates, also catalyze only elimination reactions. Substrate binding neutralizes the charge on the carboxylate, which allows for abstraction of the proton on C5 and leads to an elimination reaction via an E1cb mechanism. These enzymes can also cleave thioglycosides, albeit slowly.The unsaturated product of polysaccharide lyases can then serve as a substrate for a hydration reaction carried out by unsaturated glucuronyl hydrolases. This hydration is initiated by protonation at C4 and proceeds in a Markovnikov fashion rather than undergoing a Michael-type addition, giving a hemiketal at C5. This hemiketal then undergoes a rearrangement that results in cleavage of the anomeric bond. These enzymes can also hydrolyze thioglycosides efficiently and slowly turn over substrates with inverted anomeric configuration.The mechanisms discussed in this Account proceed through transition states that involve either positive or negative charges, unlike the exclusively cationic transition states of the classical Koshland retaining and inverting glycosidases. In addition, the distribution of this charge throughout the substrate can vary substantially. The nature of these mechanisms and their transition states means that any inhibitors or inactivators of these unusual enzymes probably differ from those presently used for Koshland retaining or inverting glycosidases. © 2013 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-235
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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