Cell-wall components are hydrolysed by numerous plant glycosidase and glycanase activities. We investigated whether plant enzymes also modify xyloglucan structures by transglycosidase activities. Diverse angiosperm extracts exhibited transglycosidase activities that progressively transferred single sugar residues between xyloglucan heptasaccharide (XXXG or its reduced form, XXXGol) molecules, at 16 μM and above, creating octa- to decasaccharides plus smaller products. We measured remarkably high transglycosylation:hydrolysis ratios under optimized conditions. To identify the transferred monosaccharide(s), we devised a dual-labelling strategy in which a neutral radiolabelled oligosaccharide (donor substrate) reacted with an amino-labelled non-radioactive oligosaccharide (acceptor substrate), generating radioactive cationic products. For example, 37 μM [Xyl-³H]XXXG plus 1 mM XXLG-NH₂ generated ³H-labelled cations, demonstrating xylosyl transfer, which exceeded xylosyl hydrolysis 1.6- to 7.3-fold, implying the presence of enzymes that favour transglycosylation. The transferred xylose residues remained α-linked but were relatively resistant to hydrolysis by plant enzymes. Driselase digestion of the products released a trisaccharide (α-[³H]xylosyl-isoprimeverose), indicating that a new xyloglucan repeat unit had been formed. In similar assays, [Gal-³H]XXLG and [Gal-³H]XLLG (but not [Fuc-³H]XXFG) yielded radioactive cations. Thus plants exhibit trans-α-xylosidase and trans-β-galactosidase (but not trans-α-fucosidase) activities that graft sugar residues from one xyloglucan oligosaccharide to another. Reconstructing xyloglucan oligosaccharides in this way may alter oligosaccharin activities or increase their longevity in vivo. Trans-α-xylosidase activity also transferred xylose residues from xyloglucan oligosaccharides to long-chain hemicelluloses (xyloglucan, water-soluble cellulose acetate, mixed-linkage β-glucan, glucomannan and arabinoxylan). With xyloglucan as acceptor substrate, such an activity potentially affects the polysaccharide's suitability as a substrate for xyloglucan endotransglucosylase action and thereby modulates cell expansion. We conclude that certain proteins annotated as glycosidases can function as transglycosidases.
© 2012 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.