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J Bacteriol. 1981 Sep; 147(3): 728–735.
PMCID: PMC216107

A novel phenolic glycolipid from Mycobacterium leprae possibly involved in immunogenicity and pathogenicity.


A phenolic glycolipid was obtained in high amounts (2% of dry weight) from Mycobacterium leprae isolated from infected armadillo liver. Infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy showed that it is closely related to "mycoside A" from Mycobacterium kansasii and is therefore a glycosylphenolic phthiocerol diester. The crucial difference between the two products is in the composition of the attached trisaccharide. Gas-liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy showed that the product from M. kansasii is composed of 2,4-di-O-methylrhamnose, 2-O-methylrhamnose, and 2-O-methylfucose, whereas that from M. leprae contains 2,3-di-O-methylrhamnose, 3-O-methylrhamnose, and 3,6-di-O-methylglucose. The distinct composition of the oligosaccharide segment of the glycolipid from M. leprae may make it useful for the chemical and serological differentiation of this organism from other mycobacteria. Surprisingly large quantities (2.2 mg/g of dry liver) of the glycolipid were also found in infected liver residue freed of M. leprae, suggesting that it may be responsible for the electron-transparent "foam" surrounding the organism in infected lepromatous tissue.

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