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Rhamnose is an important 6-deoxy sugar present in many natural products, glycoproteins, and structural polysaccharides. Whilst predominantly found as the l-enantiomer, instances of d-rhamnose are also found in nature, particularly in the Pseudomonads bacteria. Interestingly, rhamnose is notably absent from humans and other animals, which poses unique opportunities for drug discovery targeted towards rhamnose utilizing enzymes from pathogenic bacteria. Whilst the biosynthesis of nucleotide-activated rhamnose (NDP-rhamnose) is well studied, the study of rhamnosyltransferases that synthesize rhamnose-containing glycoconjugates is the current focus amongst the scientific community. In this review, we describe where rhamnose has been found in nature, as well as what is known about TDP-β-l-rhamnose, UDP-β-l-rhamnose, and GDP-α-d-rhamnose biosynthesis. We then focus on examples of rhamnosyltransferases that have been characterized using both in vivo and in vitro approaches from plants and bacteria, highlighting enzymes where 3D structures have been obtained. The ongoing study of rhamnose and rhamnosyltransferases, in particular in pathogenic organisms, is important to inform future drug discovery projects and vaccine development.
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