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Cell. 2009 Apr 17;137(2):321-31. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.02.041.

A general O-glycosylation system important to the physiology of a major human intestinal symbiont.

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  • 1Channing Laboratory, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 181 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The Bacteroides are a numerically dominant genus of the human intestinal microbiota. These organisms harbor a rare bacterial pathway for incorporation of exogenous fucose into capsular polysaccharides and glycoproteins. The infrequency of glycoprotein synthesis by bacteria prompted a more detailed analysis of this process. Here, we demonstrate that Bacteroides fragilis has a general O-glycosylation system. The proteins targeted for glycosylation include those predicted to be involved in protein folding, protein-protein interactions, peptide degradation as well as surface lipoproteins. Protein glycosylation is central to the physiology of B. fragilis and is necessary for the organism to competitively colonize the mammalian intestine. We provide evidence that general O-glycosylation systems are conserved among intestinal Bacteroides species and likely contribute to the predominance of Bacteroides in the human intestine.

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