Carbohydrate-active enzymes face huge substrate diversity in a highly selective manner using only a limited number of available folds. They are therefore subjected to multiple divergent and convergent evolutionary events. This and their frequent modularity render their functional annotation in genomes difficult in a number of cases. In the present paper, a classification of polysaccharide lyases (the enzymes that cleave polysaccharides using an elimination instead of a hydrolytic mechanism) is shown thoroughly for the first time. Based on the analysis of a large panel of experimentally characterized polysaccharide lyases, we examined the correlation of various enzyme properties with the three levels of the classification: fold, family and subfamily. The resulting hierarchical classification, which should help annotate relevant genes in genomic efforts, is available and constantly updated at the Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes Database (

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