Since taking up his lectureship at Newcastle in 1985 Harry Gilbert’s research has focussed on enzymes, primarily glycoside hydrolases, which attack complex carbohydrates. These enzymes are of considerable biological and industrial importance. Harry has used structure-function studies to dissect the contribution of non-catalytic carbohydrate binding modules (CBMs) in targeting enzymes to complex insoluble structures exemplified by the plant cell wall, thereby overcoming the access problem.
Harry has extended his studies on CBMs to explore how glycoside hydrolases are able to select specific substrates and modes of action. Using structure-based strategies, Harry has exploited this fundamental understanding of enzyme specificity to engineer novel catalytic functions into these biological catalysts.
Recently Harry has been dissecting the mechanisms of glycans utilization by human gut bacteria, the microbiota. His work has led to the presentation of a selfish model for the metabolism of highly complex carbohydrates by members of this ecosystem. Harry’s work has implications on resource allocation within the human microbiota, which could impact on dietary strategies that maximise the impact of this microbial ecosystem on health.
, Institute For Cell and Molecular Biosciences, Newcastle University
Enzymes, Complex carbohydrates, carbohydrate binding modules, Crystal structures of glycoside hydrolases, Human gut bacteria, microbial and enzymatic degradation of plant biomass, Contribution of the microbiota to human nutrition