Click-Chemistry-Based Free Azide versus Azido Sugar Detection Enables Rapid In Vivo Screening of Glycosynthase Activity

Ayushi Agrawal, Chandra Bandi, Tucker Burgin, Youngwoo Woo, Heather Mayes, Shishir Chundawat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus Citations


Engineering of carbohydrate-active enzymes such as glycosynthases to enable chemoenzymatic synthesis of bespoke oligosaccharides has been limited by the lack of suitable ultrahigh-throughput screening methods capable of robustly detecting either starting substrates or end-products of the glycosidic bond formation reaction. Currently, there are limited screening methods available for rapid and highly sensitive single-cell-based screening of glycosynthase enzymes employing azido sugars as activated donor glycosyl substrates. Here, we report a fluorescence-based approach employing click-chemistry for the selective detection of glycosyl azides as substrates versus free inorganic azides as reaction products that facilitated an ultrahigh-throughput in vivo single-cell-based assay of glycosynthase activity. This assay was developed based on the distinct differences observed in relative fluorescence intensity of the triazole-containing fluorophore product formed during the click-chemistry reaction of organic glycosyl azides versus inorganic azides. This discovery formed the basis for proof of concept validation of a directed evolution methodology for screening and sorting glycosynthase mutants capable of synthesis of targeted fucosylated oligosaccharides. Our screening approach facilitated fluorescence-activated cell sorting of an error-prone polymerase chain reaction-based mutant library of fucosynthases expressed in Escherichia coli to identify several novel mutants that showed increased activity for ß-fucosyl azide-activated donor sugars toward desired acceptor sugars (e.g., pNP-xylose and lactose). Finally, we discuss avenues for improving this proof of concept in vivo assay method to identify better glycosynthase mutants and further demonstrate the broader applicability of this screening methodology for synthesis of bespoke glycans.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2490-2501
Number of pages12
JournalACS Chemical Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2800-81002


  • click-chemistry
  • fluorescence
  • free inorganic azides
  • glycosyl azides
  • glycosynthase activity
  • reaction products
  • selective detection
  • substrates


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