Mechanistic investigations of Family 4 Glycosidases

Carbohydrates traditionally were thought to serve one role: reservoirs of energy for maintaining metabolism. In fact, they serve much more diverse and vital roles, including regulation of cellular activity. Vivian Yip is studying Family 4 glycoside hydrolases, a family of enzymes that break down carbohydrates in bacterial cells. These enzymes are part of a system that transports sugar molecules across the cell membrane and into the cell. Inside the cell, the enzymes cut the sugar into smaller pieces to provide food for the bacteria. Vivian is investigating the chemical mechanism of these enzymes, which will provide important clues to inhibiting the enzymes’ activity. Inhibition of these enzymes could restrict the food supply, which would cause bacterial cells to die. Findings from the research could be used to develop antibiotics to reduce bacterial infections with potentially few side effects since currently these enzymes are found only from bacterial sources, but not mammalian.