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Biosynthesis of hyaluronic acid by Streptococcus.

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      Synthesis of hyaluronic acid was investigated in a cell-free system derived from a strain of Group A streptococci. Preparative procedures were improved so that an enzyme system 70 times more active than that previously reported was obtained. The hyaluronic acid synthesized could be separated into trichloroacetic acid-soluble and -insoluble fractions. On the basis of pulse-chase experiments, it was shown that the trichloroacetic acid-insoluble fraction is a precursor of the soluble fraction. The release of the trichloroacetic acid-insoluble hyaluronic acid is specifically blocked with p-chloromercuribenzoate, without inhibition of chain elongation. The addition of butanol to trichloroacetic acid resulted in solubilization of all of the hyaluronic acid. No detectable difference in molecular size was observed between the two hyaluronic acid fractions, both of which were estimated to be more than one million daltons in size. Testicular hyaluronidase digestion of either one of the two types of hyaluronic acid yielded no high molecular weight fragments, indicating that hyaluronic acid is not bound covalently to protein. However, following incubation of enzyme assay mixtures with UDP-[14C]GlcUA, even in the absence of UDP-GlcNAc, radioactive high molecular weight hyaluronic acid was obtained which suggests that the enzyme system elongates rather than initiates hyaluronic acid chains. Tunicamycin did not inhibit hyaluronic acid synthesis, indicating lack of participation of an intermediate of pyrophosphorylpolyisoprenol type. The results obtained are consistent with the hypothesis that chain elongation of hyaluronic acid proceeds by alternate addition of monosaccharides from UDP-sugars by a membrane-bound synthesizing system followed by release of completed hyaluronic acid chains.

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