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Microbiology. 2003 Feb;149(Pt 2):431-444. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.25913-0.

Genes involved in the synthesis of the exopolysaccharide methanolan by the obligate methylotroph Methylobacillus sp strain 12S.

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Biotechnology Research Center, The University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan.


Methylobacillus sp. strain 12S produces an exopolysaccharide (EPS), methanolan, composed of glucose, mannose and galactose. Twenty-four ORFs flanking a Tn5 insertion site in an EPS-deficient mutant were identified, and 21 genes (epsCBAKLDEFGHIJMNOPQRSTU) were predicted to participate in methanolan synthesis on the basis of the features of the primary sequence. Gene disruption analyses revealed that epsABCEFGIJNOP and epsR are required for methanolan synthesis, whereas epsKD and epsH are not essential. EpsFG and EpsE showed homology with Wzc (chain length regulator) and Wza (export protein) of group 1 capsule-producing Escherichia coli, suggesting that methanolan was synthesized via a Wzy-like biosynthesis system. This possibility was supported by the fact that the putative hydropathy profiles of EpsH and EpsM were similar to those of Wzx and Wzy, which are also involved in the flipping of the repeating unit in the cytoplasmic membrane and the polymerization of the capsule in the Wzy-dependent system. EpsBJNOP and EpsR are probably glycosyltransferases involved in the synthesis of the repeating unit onto the lipid carrier. In particular, EpsB appeared to catalyse the initial transfer of the glucose moiety. On the basis of their predicted location in the cells, it is proposed that EpsI and EpsL are involved in methanolan export to the cell surface. E. coli strains expressing EpsQ, EpsS and EpsT showed enhanced activities of GDP-mannose pyrophosphorylase, UDP-galactose 4-epimerase and UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase, respectively, revealing that they were responsible for the production of the activated compositional sugars of methanolan. EpsU contains a conserved a lytic transglycosylase motif, indicating that it could participate in the degradation of polysaccharides. EpsA and EpsK, which have conserved DNA-binding and cAMP-binding motifs, respectively, were deduced to be transcriptional regulators. In particular, EpsA seems to positively regulate the transcription of methanolan synthesis genes, since the constitutive expression of epsA in strain 12S increased the EPS production. Interestingly, EpsD showed homology with peptidyl prolyl cis-trans isomerases that catalyse the folding of proteins following translocation across the cytoplasmic membrane.

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