- Escherichia coli serotype O9a provides a model for export of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) O-antigen polysaccharide (O-PS) via ABC transporters. In O9a biosynthesis, a chain-terminator enzyme, WbdD, caps the nonreducing end of the glycan with a methylphosphate moiety and thereby establishes chain-length distribution. A carbohydrate-binding module (CBM) in the ABC transporter recognizes terminated glycans, ensuring that only mature O-PS is exported and incorporated into LPS. Here, we addressed two questions arising from this model.
- A limited range of different structures is observed in O-antigenic polysaccharides (OPSs) from Klebsiella pneumoniae lipopolysaccharides. Among these, several are based on modifications of a conserved core element of serotype O2a OPS, which has a disaccharide repeat structure [→3)-α-d-Galp-(1→3)-β-d-Galf-(1→]. Here, we describe the enzymatic pathways for a highly unusual modification strategy involving the attachment of a second glycan repeat-unit structure to the nonreducing terminus of O2a. This occurs by the addition of the O1 [→3)-α-d-Galp-(1→3)-β-d-Galp-(1→] or O2c [→3)-β-d-GlcpNAc-(1→5)-β-d-Galf-(1→] antigens.
- Klebsiella pneumoniae is a major health threat. Vaccination and passive immunization are considered as alternative therapeutic strategies for managing Klebsiella infections. Lipopolysaccharide O antigens are attractive candidates because of the relatively small range of known O-antigen polysaccharide structures, but immunotherapeutic applications require a complete understanding of the structures found in clinical settings. Currently, the precise number of Klebsiella O antigens is unknown because available serological tests have limited resolution, and their association with defined chemical structures is sometimes uncertain.