CUPRA-ZYME: An Assay for Measuring Carbohydrate-Active Enzyme Activities, Pathways, and Substrate Specificities

Anal Chem. 2020 Feb 18;92(4):3228-3236. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.9b05007. Epub 2020 Feb 7.


Carbohydrate-Active enZymes (CAZymes) are involved in the synthesis, degradation, and modification of carbohydrates. They play critical roles in diverse physiological and pathophysiological processes, have important industrial and biotechnological applications, are important drug targets, and represent promising biomarkers for the diagnosis of a variety of diseases. Measurements of their activities, catalytic pathway, and substrate specificities are essential to a comprehensive understanding of the biological functions of CAZymes and exploiting these enzymes for industrial and biomedical applications. For glycosyl hydrolases a variety of sensitive and quantitative spectrophotometric techniques are available. However, measuring the activity of glycosyltransferases is considerably more challenging. Here, we introduce CUPRA-ZYME, a versatile and quantitative electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) assay for measuring the kinetic parameters of CAZymes, monitoring reaction pathways, and profiling substrate specificities. The method employs the recently developed competitive universal proxy receptor assay (CUPRA), implemented in a time-resolved manner. Measurements of the hydrolysis kinetics of CUPRA substrates containing ganglioside oligosaccharides by the glycosyl hydrolase human neuraminidase 3 served to validate the reliability of kinetic parameters measured by CUPRA-ZYME and highlight its use in establishing catalytic pathways. Applications to libraries of substrates demonstrate the potential of the assay for quantitative profiling of the substrate specificities glycosidases and glycosyltransferases. Finally, we show how the comparison of the reactivity of CUPRA substrates and glycan substrates present on glycoproteins, measured simultaneously, affords a unique opportunity to quantitatively study how the structure and protein environment of natural glycoconjugate substrates influences CAZyme activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Enzyme Assays / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Hydrolysis
  • Kinetics
  • Lactose / analogs & derivatives
  • Lactose / metabolism
  • Neuraminidase / metabolism
  • Sialic Acids / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Sialic Acids
  • N-acetylneuraminoyllactose
  • Neu3 protein, human
  • Neuraminidase
  • Lactose