Enzymes for the biocatalytic production of rare sugars

  • Koen Beerens
  • Tom Desmet
  • Wim Soetaert


Carbohydrates are much more than just a source of energy as they also mediate a variety of recognition processes that are central to human health. As such, saccharides can be applied in the food and pharmaceutical industries to stimulate our immune system (e.g., prebiotics), to control diabetes (e.g., low-calorie sweeteners), or as building blocks for anticancer and antiviral drugs (e.g., l-nucleosides). Unfortunately, only a small number of all possible monosaccharides are found in nature in sufficient amounts to allow their commercial exploitation. Consequently, so-called rare sugars have to be produced by (bio)chemical processes starting from cheap and widely available substrates. Three enzyme classes that can be used for rare sugar production are keto–aldol isomerases, epimerases, and oxidoreductases. In this review, the recent developments in rare sugar production with these biocatalysts are discussed.


Rare sugars Biocatalysis Epimerase Isomerase Polyol dehydrogenase 



d-Arabitol 2-dehydrogenase


l-Arabinose isomerase


Cellobiose 2-epimerase


Mannitol 1-dehydrogenase


l-Ribose isomerase


d-Tagatose 3-epimerase


Tagatose-6-phosphate isomerase


Uridine diphosphate


Xylitol 4-dehydrogenase



This review was realized within a research project funded by grants SB81309 and SB83309 from the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT-Vlaanderen).


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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Industrial Biotechnology and Biocatalysis, Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringGhent UniversityGentBelgium

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