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J Biol Chem. 2003 Feb 7;278(6):3948-56. Epub 2002 Nov 8.

Novel bacterial polar lipids containing ether-linked alkyl chains, the structures and biological properties of the four major glycolipids from Propionibacterium propionicum PCM 2431 (ATCC 14157T).

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Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, the Polish Academy of Sciences, Weigla 12, Wrocław PL-53-114, Poland.


Propionibacterium propionicum belongs to the "acnes group" of propionibacteria, which is currently considered as clinically important because of its growing potential in infections, in particular with those connected with immune system dysfunctions. Propionibacteria are thought to be actinomycete-like microorganisms and may still cause diagnostic difficulties. The chloroform-methanol extracts of the cell mass of P. propionicum (type strain) gave in TLC analysis the characteristic glycolipid profile containing four major glycolipids, labeled G(1) through G(4). These polar lipids were found to be useful chemotaxonomic markers to differentiate P. propionicum from other cutaneous propionibacteria, in particular from strains of the acnes group. Glycolipids G(1)-G(4) were isolated and purified using gel-permeation chromatography, TLC, and high performance liquid chromatography, and their structures were elucidated by compositional and methylation analyses, specific chemical degradations, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, and (1)H NMR and (13)C NMR spectroscopy, including HMBC, TOCSY, HMQC, and NOESY experiments. Glycolipids G(2) and G(3) possess as backbone alpha-d-Glcp-(1 --> 3)-alpha-d-Glcp-(1 --> 1)-Gro (Gro, glycerol), in which position O-2 of the glycerol residue is acylated by a fatty acid (mainly C(15):0) while O-3 is substituted by an alkyl ether chain. In glycolipid G(3), an additional fatty acyl chain was linked to O-6 of the terminal glucose residue. Glycolipid G(4) was structurally related to G(2) but devoid of one glucose residue. Glycolipid G(1) was isolated in small amounts, and its structure was therefore deduced from MALDI-TOF-MS experiments alone, which revealed that it possessed the structure of G(2) but was lacking one fatty acid residue. In studies on the biological properties of P. propionicum glycolipids, the anti-P. propionicum rabbit antisera reacted in dot enzyme-immunoblotting test with G(2) and G(3). Glycolipid G(3) was able to induce the delayed type of hypersensitivity. The results indicated that these novel ether linkage-containing polar glycolipids are immunogenic and possibly active in hypersensitivity, and thus, in pathogenesis.

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