Advanced search
Start date

Enzymatic mechanisms from the microbiome of aquatic herbivores for depolymerization and metabolism of complex carbohydrates


This project aims to elucidate enzymatic systems and molecular mechanisms associated with the depolymerization and metabolism of complex carbohydrates by microorganisms present in the gut microbiota of herbivores. The processing of carbohydrates by the gut microbiota plays a central role in the generation of energy (nutrition) for the host, in addition to other functions such as modulation of the immune system, protection against pathogen invasion and metabolism. In addition, herbivores play an important role in the maintenance and dynamics of ecosystems by controlling the type, distribution and structure of vegetation, whether terrestrial or aquatic. The understanding of molecular bases underpinning the utilization of highly diverse and recalcitrant carbohydrates by gut microbial communities represents an important advance in the knowledge of carbohydrate enzymology, an area of great importance for biotechnology, health and animal nutrition. The knowledge generated has the potential to expand and/or modify our understanding of microbial mechanisms to overcome carbohydrate recalcitrance, which may contribute to accelerating the transition to a circular and sustainable bioeconomy. For this purpose, an interdisciplinary approach will be employed that integrates state-of-the-art omics, biochemical, structural and computational methods to investigate highly specialized niches in the deconstruction of carbohydrates such as the gut microbiomes of semiaquatic and aquatic herbivores that are yet underexplored when compared terrestrial monogastric herbivores and ruminants. The relevance of these biological systems is supported by the recent discoveries from our group on the gut microbiome of the capybara (a semiaquatic herbivore), which allowed the founding of two new families in the CAZy database and revealed a significant number of proteins with unknown function with potential lytic action on carbohydrates, reinforcing the concept that such organisms are untapped sources of microorganisms and enzymatic systems for processing complex carbohydrates (Cabral et al., Nature Communications 2022). In addition, the group has sought to work on the frontier of the discovery and mechanistic elucidation of carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) exemplified by the functional and mechanistic dissection of an entire family of glucanases through sequence similarity networks (Santos et al., Nature Chemical Biology 2020) and the combination of X-ray crystallography with quantum computational simulations to unravel alternative catalytic pathways of exo-enzymes that change the currently proposed model on catalytic reactions of glycosidic hydrolases (Morais et al., Nature Communications 2021). Also in 2021, the group unveiled the enzymatic machinery for the processing of xyloglucan by proteobacteria and its role in virulence in plant pathogenic species (Vieira et al., Nature Communications, 2021). More recently, we showed how probiotic bacteria from the genus Bifidobacterium are capable of deconstructing and metabolizing N-glycans, which explains a possible molecular strategy for their perennial presence in the gut microbiota of adult and elderly mammals (Cordeiro et al., Nature Chemical Biology 2023). In conclusion, both biological systems ((semi-)aquatic herbivores) and experimental/theoretical approaches have great potential to result in breakthrough discoveries in glycobiology, either in the fundamental understanding of microbial communities and their enzymatic strategies or in the applied field for biotechnological purposes. (AU)

Articles published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the research grant:
Articles published in other media outlets (0 total):
More itemsLess items

Please report errors in scientific publications list by writing to: