Tailoring trehalose for biomedical and biotechnological applications

Mara K. O'Neill, Brent F. Piligian, Claire D. Olson, Peter J. Woodruff, Benjamin M. Swarts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Trehalose is a non-reducing sugar whose ability to stabilize biomolecules has brought about its widespread use in biological preservation applications. Trehalose is also an essential metabolite in a number of pathogens, most significantly the global pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, though it is absent in humans and other mammals. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in modifying the structure of trehalose to generate analogs that have applications in biomedical research and biotechnology. Non-degradable trehalose analogs could have a number of advantages as bioprotectants and food additives. Trehalose-based imaging probes and inhibitors are already useful as research tools and may have future value in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, among other uses. Underlying the advancements made in these areas are novel synthetic methods that facilitate access to and evaluation of trehalose analogs. In this review, we focus on both aspects of the development of this class of molecules. First, we consider the chemical and chemoenzymatic methods that have been used to prepare trehalose analogs and discuss their prospects for synthesis on commercially relevant scales. Second, we describe ongoing efforts to develop and deploy detectable trehalose analogs, trehalose-based inhibitors, and non-digestible trehalose analogs. The current and potential future uses of these compounds are discussed, with an emphasis on their roles in understanding and combatting mycobacterial infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1249
Number of pages27
JournalPure and Applied Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • ICS-28
  • analog
  • biocatalysis
  • biopreservation
  • chemical synthesis
  • chemoenzymatic synthesis
  • imaging
  • inhibitors
  • mycobacteria
  • trehalose


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