4 November 2014

International project meeting at the University of Copenhagen


Since 2011, the European Union (EU) finances a research project led by the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, INRA. The University of Copenhagen is one of the 9 leading research organizations based in 6 different EU countries.

The project supports intensive training for PhD students and post-doctoral researchers and enhances their mobility in Europe. Thus, 13 young researchers have been recruited to participate in a large research programme dedicated to explore the vast field of plant cell walls and their applications in the food and textile industries. Prof William G.T. Willats, head of section of Plant Glycobiology, recruited two fellows, Julia Schückel and Xioayuan Guo who are working on the development of enzyme assays and analysis of cell wall elongation in plants respectively.

On October 9th and 10th 2014, the University of Copenhagen hosted the seventh WallTraC project meeting. It was an opportunity for the whole consortium to visit Prof Willats’ labs. They could see how the glycan microarrays are performed, and learn more about the chromogenic substrates that Julia Schückel and her colleagues have developed.

WallTraC Team at the University of Copenhagen

Chromogenic substrates for enzyme high throughput screening

In her project Julia developed a quick and easy method for the identification of the polysaccharides degrading enzymes. Polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates that are widely spread in nature and are used in various industries as food ingredients, biomaterials and pharmaceutical products. All kingdoms, plants, animals, fungi and bacteria produce several enzymes to degrade or modify these complex carbohydrates. Such enzymes are very important and extremely useful for several processes and for analytical use, but to find and select the desired enzyme activity is a major challenge. Therefore, it is important to develop analytical tools to screen these enzymes of unknown function. At the University of Copenhagen, Julia and her colleague Stjepan Kračun developed a new way to produce chromogenic polysaccharide hydrogel (CPH) substrates. With these substrates it will be possible to screen enzymes with unknown activity in a high-throughput format. This discovery will lead to the assignment of their unique functional role in nature and its potential for possible applications in industry.