A pseudaminic acid or a legionaminic acid derivative transferase is strain-specifically implicated in the general protein O-glycosylation system of the periodontal pathogen Tannerella forsythia.

PMID 28334934


The occurrence of nonulosonic acids in bacteria is wide-spread and linked to pathogenicity. However, the knowledge of cognate nonulosonic acid transferases is scarce. In the periodontopathogen Tannerella forsythia, several proposed virulence factors carry strain-specifically either a pseudaminic or a legionaminic acid derivative as terminal sugar on an otherwise structurally identical, protein-bound oligosaccharide. This study aims to shed light on the transfer of either nonulosonic acid derivative on a proximal N-acetylmannosaminuronic acid residue within the O-glycan structure, exemplified with the bacterium's abundant S-layer glycoproteins. Bioinformatic analyses provided the candidate genes Tanf_01245 (strain ATCC 43037) and TFUB4_00887 (strain UB4), encoding a putative pseudaminic and a legionaminic acid derivative transferase, respectively. These transferases have identical C-termini and contain motifs typical of glycosyltransferases (DXD) and bacterial sialyltransferases (D/E-D/E-G and HP). They share homology to type B glycosyltransferases and TagB, an enzyme catalyzing glycerol transfer to an N-acetylmannosamine residue in teichoic acid biosynthesis. Analysis of a cellular pool of nucleotide-activated sugars confirmed the presence of the CMP-activated nonulosonic acid derivatives, which are most likely serving as substrates for the corresponding transferase. Single gene knock-out mutants targeted at either transferase were analyzed for S-layer O-glycan composition by ESI-MS, confirming the loss of the nonulosonic acid derivative. Cross-complementation of the mutants with the nonnative nonulosonic acid transferase was not successful indicating high stringency of the enzymes. This study identified plausible candidates for a pseudaminic and a legionaminic acid derivative transferase; these may serve as valuable tools for engineering of novel sialoglycoconjugates.

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N-Acetylmuramic acid, ≥98%