Wakarchuk Lab

The Wakarchuk Lab for GlycoScience


Dr. Wakarchuk’s research papers can be found here.

A Bacterial Expression Platform for Production of Therapeutic Proteins Containing Human-like O-Linked Glycans



We have developed an Escherichia coli strain for the in vivo production of O-glycosylated proteins. This was achieved using a dual plasmid approach: one encoding a therapeutic protein target, and a second encoding the enzymatic machinery required for O-glycosylation. The latter plasmid encodes human polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyl transferase as well as a β1,3-galactosyl transferase and UDP-Glc(NAc)-4-epimerase, both from Campylobacter jejuni, and a disulfide bond isomerase of bacterial or human origin. The effectiveness of this two-plasmid synthetic operon system has been tested on three proteins with therapeutic potential: the native and an engineered version of the naturally O-glycosylated human interferon α-2b, as well as human growth hormone with one engineered site of glycosylation. Having established proof of principle for the addition of the core-1 glycan onto proteins, we are now developing this system as a platform for producing and modifying human protein therapeutics with more complex O-glycan structures in E. coli.

Genetics behind the biosynthesis of nonulosonic acid containing lipooligosaccharides in Campylobacter coli.


Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli are the most common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in the world. Ganglioside mimicry by C. jejuni lipooligosaccharide (LOS) is the triggering factor of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an acute polyneuropathy. Sialyltransferases from the glycosyltransferase (GT) family 42 are essential for the expression of ganglioside mimicss in C. jejuni. Recently, two novel GT-42 genes, cstIV and cstV, have been identified in C. coli. Despite being present in~ 11% of currently available C. coli genomes, the biological role of cstIV and cstV is unknown. Here, we show that CstIV and CstV are involved in LOS biosynthesis. Additionally, cstV is associated with LOS sialylation, while cstIV is linked to the addition of a diacetylated nonulosonic acid residue.

Directed evolution of bacterial polysialyltransferases


Polysialyltransferases (polySTs) are glycosyltransferases that synthesize polymers of sialic acid found in vertebrates and some bacterial pathogens. Bacterial polySTs have utility in the modification of therapeutic proteins to improve serum half-life, and the potential for tissue engineering. PolySTs are membrane-associated proteins and as recombinant proteins suffer from inherently low solubility, low expression levels and poor thermal stability. To improve their physicochemical and biochemical properties, we applied a directed evolution approach using a FACS-based ultrahigh-throughput assay as a simple, robust and reliable screening method. We were able to enrich a large mutant library and, in combination with plate-based high-throughput secondary screening, we discovered mutants with increased enzymatic activity and improved stability compared to the wildtype enzyme. This work presents a powerful strategy for the screening of directed evolution libraries of bacterial polySTs to identify better catalysts for in vitro polysialylation of therapeutics.