Bacterial Glycoengineering as a Biosynthetic Route to Customized Glycomolecules

Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol. 2021;175:167-200. doi: 10.1007/10_2018_72.


Bacteria have garnered increased interest in recent years as a platform for the biosynthesis of a variety of glycomolecules such as soluble oligosaccharides, surface-exposed carbohydrates, and glycoproteins. The ability to engineer commonly used laboratory species such as Escherichia coli to efficiently synthesize non-native sugar structures by recombinant expression of enzymes from various carbohydrate biosynthesis pathways has allowed for the facile generation of important products such as conjugate vaccines, glycosylated outer membrane vesicles, and a variety of other research reagents for studying and understanding the role of glycans in living systems. This chapter highlights some of the key discoveries and technologies for equipping bacteria with the requisite biosynthetic machinery to generate such products. As the bacterial glyco-toolbox continues to grow, these technologies are expected to expand the range of glycomolecules produced recombinantly in bacterial systems, thereby opening up this platform to an even larger number of applications.

Keywords: Bacterial oligosaccharyltransferase; Bacterial polysaccharides; Bacterial protein glycosylation; Carbohydrate biosynthesis pathways; Conjugate vaccines; Glycoengineering; Glycosyltransferase.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins* / genetics
  • Glycoproteins* / metabolism
  • Glycosylation
  • Polysaccharides*


  • Glycoproteins
  • Polysaccharides