New insights to diversity and enzyme-substrate interactions of fungal glucuronoyl esterases

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Glucuronoyl esterases (GEs) (EC catalyze the cleavage of ester-linked lignin-carbohydrate complexes that has high impact on the plant cell wall integrity. The GEs are among the very few known types of hydrolytic enzymes that act at the interface of lignin, or which may potentially interact with lignin itself. In this review, we provide the latest update of the current knowledge on GEs with a special focus on the fungal variants. In addition, we have established the phylogenetic relationship between all GEs and this reveals that the fungal enzymes largely fall into one major branch, together with only a minor subset of bacterial enzymes. About 22% of the fungal proteins carry an additional domain, which is almost exclusively a CBM1 binding domain. We address how GEs may interact with the lignin-side of their substrate by molecular docking experiments based on the known structure of the Cerrena unicolor GE (CuGE). The docking studies indicate that there are no direct interactions between the enzyme and the lignin polymer, that the lignin-moiety is facing away from the protein surface and that an elongated carbon-chain between the ester-linkage and the first phenyl of lignin is preferable. Much basic research on these enzymes has been done over the past 15 years, but the next big step forward for these enzymes is connected to application and how these enzymes can facilitate the use of lignocellulose as a renewable resource. KEY POINTS: Fungal GEs are closely related and are sometimes linked to a binding module Molecular docking suggests good accommodation of lignin-like substructures GEs could be among the first expressed enzymes during fungal growth on biomass.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Pages (from-to)4447-4457
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Glucuronoyl esterases
  • Lignin-carbohydrate complexes
  • Lignin
  • CUPP
  • Molecular docking


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