Fucosylation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes

Glycobiology. 2006 Dec;16(12):158R-184R. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwl040. Epub 2006 Sep 14.


Fucosylated carbohydrate structures are involved in a variety of biological and pathological processes in eukaryotic organisms including tissue development, angiogenesis, fertilization, cell adhesion, inflammation, and tumor metastasis. In contrast, fucosylation appears less common in prokaryotic organisms and has been suggested to be involved in molecular mimicry, adhesion, colonization, and modulating the host immune response. Fucosyltransferases (FucTs), present in both eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms, are the enzymes responsible for the catalysis of fucose transfer from donor guanosine-diphosphate fucose to various acceptor molecules including oligosaccharides, glycoproteins, and glycolipids. To date, several subfamilies of mammalian FucTs have been well characterized; these enzymes are therefore delineated and used as models. Non-mammalian FucTs that possess different domain construction or display distinctive acceptor substrate specificity are highlighted. It is noteworthy that the glycoconjugates from plants and schistosomes contain some unusual fucose linkages, suggesting the presence of novel FucT subfamilies as yet to be characterized. Despite the very low sequence homology, striking functional similarity is exhibited between mammalian and Helicobacter pylori alpha1,3/4 FucTs, implying that these enzymes likely share a conserved mechanistic and structural basis for fucose transfer; such conserved functional features might also exist when comparing other FucT subfamilies from different origins. Fucosyltranferases are promising tools used in synthesis of fucosylated oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates, which show great potential in the treatment of infectious and inflammatory diseases and tumor metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Fucose / metabolism*
  • Fucosyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Fucosyltransferases / chemistry
  • Fucosyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Plants / enzymology
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Fucose
  • Fucosyltransferases