Identification of an important motif that controls the activity and specificity of sugar transporters

Meng Wang, Chenzhao Yu, Huimin Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Efficient glucose-xylose co-utilization is critical for economical biofuel production from lignocellulosic biomass. To enable glucose-xylose co-utilization, a highly active xylose specific transporter without glucose inhibition is desirable. However, our understanding of the structure-activity/specificity relationship of sugar transporters in general is limited, which hinders our ability to engineer xylose-specific transporters. In this study, via homology modeling and analysis of hexose sugar transporter HXT14 mutants, we identified a highly conserved YYX(T/P) motif that plays an important role in controlling the activity and specificity of sugar transporters. We demonstrated that mutating the two tyrosine residues of the motif to phenylalanine, respectively, improved glucose transport capacity across several different sugar transporters. Furthermore, we illustrated that by engineering the fourth position in the YYX(T/P) motif, the sugar specificity of transporters was significantly altered or even reversed towards xylose. Finally, using the engineered sugar transporter, genuine glucose-xylose co-fermentation was achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1460-1467
Number of pages8
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Glucose-xylose co-fermentation
  • Protein engineering
  • Specificity
  • Sugar transporter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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