The modification of N-glycans by α-mannosidases is a process that is relevant to a large number of biologically important processes, including infection by microbial pathogens and colonization by microbial symbionts. At present, the described mannosidases specific for α1,6-mannose linkages are very limited in number. Through structural and functional analysis of two sequence-related enzymes, one from Streptococcus pneumoniae (SpGH125) and one from Clostridium perfringens (CpGH125), a new glycoside hydrolase family, GH125, is identified and characterized. Analysis of SpGH125 and CpGH125 reveal them to have exo-α1,6-mannosidase activity consistent with specificity for N-linked glycans having their α1,3-mannose branches removed. The x-ray crystal structures of SpGH125 and CpGH125 obtained in apo-, inhibitor-bound, and substrate-bound forms provide both mechanistic and molecular insight into how these proteins, which adopt an (α/α)6-fold, recognize and hydrolyze the α1,6-mannosidic bond by an inverting, metal-independent catalytic mechanism. A phylogenetic analysis of GH125 proteins reveals this to be a relatively large and widespread family found frequently in bacterial pathogens, bacterial human gut symbionts, and a variety of fungi. Based on these studies we predict this family of enzymes will primarily comprise such exo-α1,6-mannosidases
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