Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) signify a unique group of oligosaccharides in breast milk, which is of major importance for infant health and development. The functional benefits of HMOs create an enormous impetus for biosynthetic production of HMOs for use as additives in infant formula and other products. HMO molecules can be synthesized chemically, via fermentation, and by enzymatic synthesis. This treatise discusses these different techniques, with particular focus on harnessing enzymes for controlled enzymatic synthesis of HMO molecules. In order to foster precise and high-yield enzymatic synthesis, several novel protein engineering approaches have been reported, mainly concerning changing glycoside hydrolases to catalyze relevant transglycosylations. The protein engineering strategies for these enzymes range from rationally modifying specific catalytic residues, over targeted subsite -1 mutations, to unique and novel transplantations of designed peptide sequences near the active site, so-called loop engineering. These strategies have proven useful to foster enhanced transglycosylation to promote different types of HMO synthesis reactions. The rationale of subsite -1 modification, acceptor binding site matching, and loop engineering, including changes that may alter the spatial arrangement of water in the enzyme active site region, may prove useful for novel enzyme-catalyzed carbohydrate design in general.
Keywords: casein glycomacropeptide; fucosidase; human milk oligosaccharides; protein engineering; sialidase; transfucosylation; transglycosylation; transsialylation; β-N-acetylhexosaminidase.