A series of Ω-epoxyalkyl glycosides of D-xylopyranose, xylobiose and xylotriose were tested as potential active-site-directed inhibitors of xylanases from glycoside hydrolase families 10 and 11. Whereas family-10 enzymes (Thermoascus aurantiacus Xyn and Clostridium thermocellum Xyn Z) are resistant to electrophilic attack of active-site carboxyl residues, glycoside hydrolases of family 11 (Thermomyces lanuginosus Xyn and Trichoderma reesei Xyn II) are irreversibly inhibited. The apparent inactivation and association constants (ki, 1/Ki) are one order of magnitude higher for the xylobiose and xylotriose derivatives. The effects of the aglycone chain length can clearly be described. Xylobiose and n-alkyl β-D-xylopyranosides are competitive ligands and provide protection against inactivation. MS measurements showed 1:1 stoichiometries in most labelling experiments. Electrospray ionization MS/MS analysis revealed the nucleophile Glu86 as the modified residue in the T. lanuginosus xylanase when 2,3-epoxypropyl β-D-xylopyranoside was used, whereas the acid/base catalyst Glu178 was modified by the 3,4-epoxybutyl derivative. The active-site residues Glu86 and Glu177 in T. reesei Xyn II are similarly modified, confirming earlier X-ray crystallographic data [Havukainen, Törrönen, Laitinen and Rouvinen (1996) Biochemistry 35, 9617-9624]. The inability of the Ω-epoxyalkyl xylo(oligo)saccharide derivatives to inactivate family-10 enzymes is discussed in terms of different ligand-subsite interactions.

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