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A Synthetic Gene Library Yields a Previously Unknown Glycoside Phosphorylase That Degrades and Assembles Poly-β-1,3-GlcNAc, Completing the Suite of β‑Linked GlcNAc Polysaccharides


The considerable utility of glycoside phosphorylases (GPs) has led to substantial efforts over the past two decades to expand the breadth of known GP activities. Driven largely by the increase of available genomic DNA sequence data, the gap between the number of sequences in the carbohydrate active enzyme database (CAZy DB) and its functionally characterized members continues to grow. This wealth of sequence data presented an exciting opportunity to explore the ever-expanding CAZy DB to discover new GPs with never-before-described functionalities. Utilizing an in silico sequence analysis of CAZy family GH94, we discovered and then functionally and structurally characterized the new GP β-1,3-N-acetylglucosaminide phosphorylase. This new GP was sourced from the genome of the cell-wall-less Mollicute bacterium, Acholeplasma laidlawii and was found to synthesize β-1,3-linked N-acetylglucosaminide linkages. The resulting poly-β-1,3-N-acetylglucosamine represents a new, previously undescribed biopolymer that completes the set of possible β-linked GlcNAc homopolysaccharides together with chitin (β-1,4) and PNAG (poly-β-1,6-N-acetylglucosamine). The new biopolymer was denoted acholetin, a combination of the genus Acholeplasma and the polysaccharide chitin, and the new GP was thus denoted acholetin phosphorylase (AchP). Use of the reverse phosphorolysis action of AchP provides an efficient method to enzymatically synthesize acholetin, which is a new biodegradable polymeric material.

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