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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 27;107(17):7722-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909449107. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

Molecular basis for peptidoglycan recognition by a bactericidal lectin.

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  • 1Departments of Immunology, The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


RegIII proteins are secreted C-type lectins that kill Gram-positive bacteria and play a vital role in antimicrobial protection of the mammalian gut. RegIII proteins bind their bacterial targets via interactions with cell wall peptidoglycan but lack the canonical sequences that support calcium-dependent carbohydrate binding in other C-type lectins. Here, we use NMR spectroscopy to determine the molecular basis for peptidoglycan recognition by HIP/PAP, a human RegIII lectin. We show that HIP/PAP recognizes the peptidoglycan carbohydrate backbone in a calcium-independent manner via a conserved "EPN" motif that is critical for bacterial killing. While EPN sequences govern calcium-dependent carbohydrate recognition in other C-type lectins, the unusual location and calcium-independent functionality of the HIP/PAP EPN motif suggest that this sequence is a versatile functional module that can support both calcium-dependent and calcium-independent carbohydrate binding. Further, we show HIP/PAP binding affinity for carbohydrate ligands depends on carbohydrate chain length, supporting a binding model in which HIP/PAP molecules "bind and jump" along the extended polysaccharide chains of peptidoglycan, reducing dissociation rates and increasing binding affinity. We propose that dynamic recognition of highly clustered carbohydrate epitopes in native peptidoglycan is an essential mechanism governing high-affinity interactions between HIP/PAP and the bacterial cell wall.

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