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Biochemistry. 2001 Oct 23;40(42):12666-77.

Biosynthesis of sialylated lipooligosaccharides in Haemophilus ducreyi is dependent on exogenous sialic acid and not mannosamine. Incorporation studies using N-acylmannosamine analogues, N-glycolylneuraminic acid, and 13C-labeled N-acetylneuraminic acid.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0446, USA.


Haemophilus ducreyi is a Gram-negative bacterium that causes chancroid, a sexually transmitted disease. Cell surface lipooligosaccharides (LOS) of H. ducreyi are thought to play important biological roles in host infection. The vast majority of H. ducreyi strains contain high levels of sialic acid (N-acetylneuraminic acid, NeuAc) in their LOS. Here we investigate the biosynthetic origin of H. ducreyi sialosides by metabolic incorporation studies using a panel of N-acylmannosamine and sialic acid analogues. Incorporation of sialosides into LOS was assessed by matrix-assisted laser desorption and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. A Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer provided accurate mass measurements, and a quadrupole time-of-flight instrument was used to obtain characteristic fragment ions and partial carbohydrate sequences. Exogenously supplied N-acetylmannosamine analogues were not converted to LOS-associated sialosides at a detectable level. In contrast, exogenous (13)C-labeled N-acetylneuraminic acid ([(13)C]NeuAc) and N-glycolylneuraminic acid (NeuGc) were efficiently incorporated into LOS in a dose-dependent fashion. Moreover, approximately 1.3 microM total exogenous sialic acid was sufficient to obtain about 50% of the maximum production of sialic acid-containing glycoforms observed under in vitro growth conditions. Together, these data suggest that the expressed levels of sialylated LOS glycoforms observed in H. ducreyi are in large part controlled by the exogenous concentrations of sialic acid and at levels one might expect in vivo. Moreover, these studies show that to properly exploit the sialic acid biosynthetic pathway for metabolic oligosaccharide engineering in H. ducreyi and possibly other prokaryotes that share similar pathways, precursors based on sialic acid and not mannosamine must be used.

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