Euglena gracilis is a eukaryotic microalga that plays a pivotal role in the development of cell biology and biochemistry due to the ease of laboratory culture.

It’s used for human consumption, owing to its production of vitamins, essential amino acids, and β-1,3-glucan, a carbohydrate which has been shown to have immune stimulating properties.

Rob Field group’s research on Euglena focuses on the elucidation of the glycobiology of Euglena gracilis in order to understand not only the fundamental science behind Euglena’s huge capability for carbohydrate and natural products synthesis, but also to exploit enzymatic tools that are discovered in Euglena gracilis for the synthesis of novel carbohydrates with pharmaceutical applications.

They have advanced knowledge of the glycobiology of Euglena gracilis in the following areas:

  • Understanding the metabolic capabilities for carbohydrate and natural product biochemistry of Euglena gracilis through analysis of Euglena gracilis transcriptome (O’Neil et all., 2015 and Euglena Supplementary Information) and providing transcriptomic resource for research community
  • Investigation of novel and complex evolution of Euglena gracilis through the analysis of unusual features and metabolic pathways found in the transcriptome (O’Neill et al., 2015)
  • Analysis of some of the carbohydrate synthesised by Euglena gracilis, which indicates that Euglena possesses a complex glycan surface, unrelated to plant cell walls. Its glycan production and glycosylation capabilities may allow the use of Euglena for the production of pharmaceutical glycoproteins (O’Neill et al., 2017)
  • Identification of new families of enzymes and its application in carbohydrate synthesis. We have identified a new family of glycosyl hydrolase containing Euglena gracilis β-1,3-glucan phosphorylase which can be used as a biocatalyst for β-1,3-glucan production (Kuhaudomlarp et al., 2018). Other potential uses of phosphorylases for glycan synthesis can also be found in our review articles (Pergolizzi et al., 2017 and O’Neill et al., 2014)
  • Developing fluorescent-based assay for detection and characterisation of enzymes from Euglena gracilis. We have developed fluorescent coumarin derivatives, which can be coupled with thin layer chromatography or HPLC-MS analyses for the detection and characterisation of Euglena gracilis mannosyltransferase and GlcNAc phosphotransferase activities. (Ivanova et al., 2017)