Glucansucrases are extracellular enzymes that synthesize a wide variety of α-glucan polymers and oligosaccharides, such as dextran. These carbohydrates have found numerous applications in food and health industries, and can be used as pure compounds or even be produced in situ by generally regarded as safe (GRAS) lactic acid bacteria in food applications. Research in the recent years has resulted in big steps forward in the understanding and exploitation of the biocatalytic potential of glucansucrases. This paper provides an overview of glucansucrase enzymes, their recently elucidated crystal structures, their reaction and product specificity, and the structural analysis and applications of α-glucan polymers. Furthermore, we discuss key developments in the understanding of α-glucan polymer formation based on the recently elucidated three-dimensional structures of glucansucrase proteins. Finally we discuss the (potential) applications of α-glucans produced by lactic acid bacteria in food and health related industries.
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