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J Bacteriol. 1989 Oct;171(10):5694-701.

Identification and sequence of rfbS and rfbE, which determine antigenic specificity of group A and group D salmonellae.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Sydney NSW, Australia.


Salmonella group A, group B, and group D strains have paratose, abequose, and tyvelose, respectively, as the immunodominant sugar in their O antigens, which are otherwise identical; only the final steps differ in the biosynthetic pathways of these sugars. The gene rfbJ from a group B strain, encoding abequose synthase, the final and only unique step in the biosynthesis of CDP-abequose, has been cloned and sequenced (P. Wyk and P. Reeves, J. Bacteriol. 171:5687-5693, 1989). In this study, we locate and sequence rfbS and rfbE from serovars typhi and paratyphi, representative of groups A and D. Gene rfbS is present in both groups and encodes paratose synthase, which carries out a step parallel to that of abequose synthase, but the product is CDP-paratose. The DNA and inferred amino acid sequences are compared with those of rfbJ. We conclude that the genes are homologous, but the divergence is extremely ancient. Gene rfbE encodes CDP-tyvelose epimerase, which converts CDP-paratose to CDP-tyvelose in group D strains; the gene is active in group D strains, and we find it to be present in a mutant form in group A strains. These two genes encode the steps unique to groups A and D and, like rfbJ of group B, are of low G+C content, suggesting transfer from outside of salmonellae. The evolutionary origin of these genes is discussed.

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