Structural and functional characterization of a modified legionaminic acid involved in glycosylation of a bacterial lipopolysaccharide

Nathan D. McDonald, Kristen E. DeMeester, Amanda L. Lewis, Catherine Leimkuhler Grimes, E. Fidelma Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Nonulosonic acids (NulOs) are a diverse family of -keto acid carbohydrates present across all branches of life. Bacteria biosynthesize NulOs among which are several related prokaryotic-specific isomers and one of which, N-acetylneuraminic acid (sialic acid), is common among all vertebrates. Bacteria display various NulO carbohydrates on lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and the identities of these molecules tune host–pathogen recognition mechanisms. The opportunistic bacterial pathogen Vibrio vulnificus possesses the genes for NulO biosynthesis; however, the structures and functions of the V. vulnificus NulO glycan are unknown. Using genetic and chemical approaches, we show here that the major NulO produced by a clinical V. vulnificus strain CMCP6 is 5-N-acetyl-7-N-acetyl-D-alanyl-legionaminic acid (Leg5Ac7AcAla). The CMCP6 strain could catabolize modified legionaminic acid, whereas V. vulnificus strain YJ016 produced but did not catabolize a NulO without the N-acetyl-D-alanyl modification. In silico analysis suggested that Leg5Ac7 AcAla biosynthesis follows a noncanonical pathway but appears to be present in several bacterial species. Leg5Ac7AcAla contributed to bacterial outer-membrane integrity, as mutant strains unable to produce or incorporate Leg5Ac7AcAla into the LPS have increased membrane permeability, sensitivity to bile salts and antimicrobial peptides, and defects in biofilm formation. Using the crustacean model, Artemia franciscana, we demonstrate that Leg5Ac7AcAla-deficient bacteria have decreased virulence potential compared with WT. Our data indicate that different V. vulnificus strains produce multiple NulOs and that the modified legionaminic acid Leg5Ac7AcAla plays a critical role in the physiology, survivability, and pathogenicity of V. vulnificus CMCP6.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19113-19126
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 7 2018

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