Carbohydrates, such as mono- and oligosaccharides, polysaccharides and glycoconjugates, play extremely important roles in all forms of life, participating in host-pathogen interactions, signal transduction, inflammation, intracellular trafficking and differentiation. In addition, carbohydrates make up about three quarters of renewable plant biomass (~ 135 billion tons/year) whose cell walls and reserve carbohydrates represent a renewable source of energy and "green" materials. However, the diversity of carbohydrates and the complexity of the plant cell walls turn their enzymatic hydrolysis into simple sugars for biofuel production and "green " chemicals into a difficult task. Our current understanding of synthesis and enzymatic degradation of complex carbohydrates in the cell wall context are at least incomplete. Less than 3.8% of enzymes and auxiliary proteins involved in synthesis and degradation of carbohydrates are currently characterized biochemically and less than 0.42% of them are characterized structurally (Lombard et al., Nucl. Acids Res. (2014) 42: D490 - D495). Therefore, in this project we are proposing to conduct a systematic structural and functional study of the enzymes with potential in depolymerization and, also synthesis of polysaccharides, aiming to discover novel enzymes and to understand their specific mechanisms of action in the context of cell wall and also against isolated carbohydrates. The results of this study may be important for biotechnological applications such as enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic materials and second-generation ethanol, among others.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: