Enzymatic glycosylation of small molecules: challenging substrates require tailored catalysts

Chemistry. 2012 Aug 27;18(35):10786-801. doi: 10.1002/chem.201103069. Epub 2012 Aug 8.


Glycosylation can significantly improve the physicochemical and biological properties of small molecules like vitamins, antibiotics, flavors, and fragrances. The chemical synthesis of glycosides is, however, far from trivial and involves multistep routes that generate lots of waste. In this review, biocatalytic alternatives are presented that offer both stricter specificities and higher yields. The advantages and disadvantages of different enzyme classes are discussed and illustrated with a number of recent examples. Progress in the field of enzyme engineering and screening are expected to result in new applications of biocatalytic glycosylation reactions in various industrial sectors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry*
  • Biocatalysis*
  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Flavoring Agents / chemistry*
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / chemistry
  • Glycosides / biosynthesis
  • Glycosides / chemical synthesis*
  • Glycosylation
  • Glycosyltransferases / chemistry
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phosphorylases / chemistry
  • Protein Engineering
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Vitamins / chemistry*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Flavoring Agents
  • Glycosides
  • Vitamins
  • Glycosyltransferases
  • Phosphorylases
  • Glycoside Hydrolases