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Keywords:

  • biosynthesis;
  • carbohydrates;
  • glycoconjugates;
  • glycosylation;
  • organic synthesis

Abstract

The thermodynamically less stable form of galactose—galactofuranose (Galf)—is essential for the viability of several pathogenic species of bacteria and protozoa but absent in this form in mammals, so the biochemical pathways by which Galf-containing glycans are assembled and catabolysed are attractive sites for drug action. This potential has led to increasing interest in the synthesis of molecules containing Galf residues, their subsequent use in studies directed towards understanding the enzymes that process these residues and the identification of potential inhibitors of these pathways. Major achievements of the past several years have included an in-depth understanding of the mechanism of UDP-galactopyranose mutase (UGM), the enzyme that produces UDP-Galf, which is the donor species for galactofuranosyltransferases. A number of methods for the synthesis of galactofuranosides have also been developed, and practitioners in the field now have many options for the initiation of a synthesis of glycoconjugates containing either α- or β-Galf residues. UDP-Galf has also been prepared by a number of approaches, and it appears that a chemoenzymatic approach is currently the most viable method for producing multi-milligram amounts of this important intermediate. Recent advances both in the understanding of the mechanism of UGM and in the synthesis of galactofuranose and its derivatives are highlighted in this review.