Glycosyltransferases (GTs) are powerful tools for the synthesis of complex and biologically-important carbohydrates. Wild-type GTs may not have all the properties and functions that are desired for large-scale production of carbohydrates that exist in nature and those with non-natural modifications. With the increasing availability of crystal structures of GTs, especially those in the presence of donor and acceptor analogues, crystal structure-guided rational design has been quite successful in obtaining mutants with desired functionalities. With current limited understanding of the structure–activity relationship of GTs, directed evolution continues to be a useful approach for generating additional mutants with functionality that can be screened for in a high-throughput format. Mutating the amino acid residues constituting or close to the substrate-binding sites of GTs by structure-guided directed evolution (SGDE) further explores the biotechnological potential of GTs that can only be realized through enzyme engineering. This mini-review discusses the progress made towards GT engineering and the lessons learned for future engineering efforts and assay development.

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