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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The metabolism of 6-deoxyhexoses in bacterial and animal cells.

L-fucose and L-rhamnose are two 6-deoxyhexoses naturally occurring in several complex carbohydrates. In prokaryotes both of them are found in polysaccharides of the cell wall, while in animals only L-fucose has been described, which mainly participates to the structure of glycoconjugates, either in the cell membrane or secreted in biological fluids, such as ABH blood groups and Lewis system antigens. L-fucose and L-rhamnose are synthesized by two de novo biosynthetic pathways starting from GDP-D-mannose and dTDP-D-glucose, respectively, which share several common features. The first step for both pathways is a dehydration reaction catalyzed by specific nucleotide-sugar dehydratases. This leads to the formation of unstable 4-keto-6-deoxy intermediates, which undergo a subsequent epimerization reaction responsible for the change from D- to L-conformation, and then a NADPH-dependent reduction of the 4-keto group, with the consequent formation of either GDP-L-fucose or dTDP-L-rhamnose. These compounds are then the substrates of specific glycosyltransferases which are responsible for insertion of either L-fucose or L-rhamnose in the corresponding glycoconjugates. The enzyme involved in the first step of GDP-L-fucose biosynthesis in E. coli, i.e., GDP-D-mannose 4,6 dehydratase, has been recently expressed as recombinant protein and characterized in our laboratory. We have also cloned and fully characterized a human protein, formerly named FX, and an E. coli protein, WcaG, which display both the epimerase and the reductase activities, thus indicating that only two enzymes are required for GDP-L-fucose production. Fucosylated complex glycoconjugates at the cell surface can then be recognized by specific counter-receptors in interacting cells, these mechanisms initiating important processes including inflammation and metastasis. The second pathway starting from dTDP-D-glucose leads to the synthesis of antibiotic glycosides or, alternatively, to the production of dTDP-L-rhamnose. While several sets of data are available on the first enzyme of the pathway, i.e., dTDP-D-glucose dehydratase, the enzymes involved in the following steps still need to be identified and characterized.[1]


  1. The metabolism of 6-deoxyhexoses in bacterial and animal cells. Tonetti, M., Sturla, L., Bisso, A., Zanardi, D., Benatti, U., De Flora, A. Biochimie (1998) [Pubmed]
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