Professor Gideon Davies, FMedSci, FRS

Royal Society Ken Murray Research Professor

01904 328260

Structural Enzymology and Chemical Biology in Glycoscience

Research Summary

Our research spans the disciplines of Chemistry and Biology, with a focus on the structural enzymology and chemical biology of proteins involved in the synthesis and degradation of carbohydrates. Stimulated by the organic chemistry of  enzymes, we develop and apply technologies to study the roles of glycans in living organisms with a keen eye to societal impact. Current projects include:

  • Glycan biosynthesis and degradation in health and disease: viral invasion, cancer and imaging/treatment of lysosomal storage diseases
  • Structure, function imaging and inhibition of heparanase; applications in cancer biology
  • The O-GlcNAc modification and its role in neurodegeneration
  • Dissecting the human intestinal microbiota and their role in glycan degradation
  • Enzyme discovery, characterization and application in the field of plant polysaccharide degradation and of biomass conversion. The Cu chemistry and activity of fungal and bacterial lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases


Selected Recent Publications

  • Dynamic and functional profiling of xylan-degrading enzymes in Aspergillus secretomes using activity-based probes.
    Schröder et al., ACS Cent Sci, 2019, on-line
  • Bracing copper for the catalytic oxidation of C–H bonds
    Ciano et al. Nature Catalysis, 2018, 1, 571-577
  • Lytic xylan oxidases from wood-decay fungi unlock biomass degradation
    Couturier et al., Nature Chem Biol, 2018, 14, 306-310
  • An ancient family of lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases with roles in arthropod development and biomass digestion
    Sabbadin et al., Nature Commun, 2018, 9, article number 756
  • Complex pectin metabolism by gut bacteria reveals novel catalytic functions
    Ndeh et al., Nature, 2017, 544, 65-70
  • Structural and functional insight into human O-GlcNAcase
    Roth et al., Nature Chem Biol, 2017, 13, 610-612
  • Activity-based probes for functional interrogation of retaining β-glucuronidases
    Wu et al., Nature Chem Biol, 2017, 13, 867–873
  • Detection of Active Mammalian GH31 α‑Glucosidases in Health and Disease Using In-ClassBroad-Spectrum Activity-Based Probes
    Jiang et al., ACS Central Science, 2016, 2, 351-358
  • The molecular basis of polysaccharide cleavage by lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases
    Frandsen et al., Nature Chem Biol, 2016, 12, 298-303
  • YihQ is a sulfoquinovosidase that cleaves sulfoquinovosyl diacylglyceride sulfolipids
    Speciale et al., Nature Chem Biol2016, 12, 215-217
  • Structural characterization of human heparanase reveals insights into substrate recognition
    Wu et al.,  Nature Struct Mol Biol, 2015, 22, 1016-1022
  • Human gut Bacteroidetes can utilize yeast mannan through a selfish mechanism
    Cuskin et al., Nature, 2015, 517, 165–169 
  • A discrete genetic locus confers xyloglucan metabolism in select human gut Bacteroidetes
    J Larsbrink et al., Nature, 2014, 506, 498-502


Gideon Davies received his PhD from the University of Bristol in 1990, and went on to postdoctoral research at EMBL Hamburg and CNRS Grenoble. In 1996 he received a Royal Society University Research Fellowship to work on Carbohydrate-Active Enzymes. He was made a Professor of the University of York in 2001.  He has won many awards including the 2016 iChemE Global Energy award, the 2015 Davy Medal of the Royal Society, the 2014 Khorana Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the 2010 Gabor Medal of the Royal Society. Gideon was elected a a Fellow of The Royal Society in 2010, and as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization the same year.  He was also elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2014. Gideon Davies was made a Royal Society Ken Murray Research Professor in 2016.

Professor Gideon Davies

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Research funders include:

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