An evolving hierarchical family classification for glycosyltransferases

J Mol Biol. 2003 Apr 25;328(2):307-17. doi: 10.1016/s0022-2836(03)00307-3.


Glycosyltransferases are a ubiquitous group of enzymes that catalyse the transfer of a sugar moiety from an activated sugar donor onto saccharide or non-saccharide acceptors. Although many glycosyltransferases catalyse chemically similar reactions, presumably through transition states with substantial oxocarbenium ion character, they display remarkable diversity in their donor, acceptor and product specificity and thereby generate a potentially infinite number of glycoconjugates, oligo- and polysaccharides. We have performed a comprehensive survey of glycosyltransferase-related sequences (over 7200 to date) and present here a classification of these enzymes akin to that proposed previously for glycoside hydrolases, into a hierarchical system of families, clans, and folds. This evolving classification rationalises structural and mechanistic investigation, harnesses information from a wide variety of related enzymes to inform cell biology and overcomes recurrent problems in the functional prediction of glycosyltransferase-related open-reading frames.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Genomics
  • Glycosyltransferases / chemistry
  • Glycosyltransferases / classification*
  • Glycosyltransferases / genetics
  • Glycosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Folding
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Glycosyltransferases