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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Jan;55(1):90-103.

Analysis of Campylobacter jejuni capsular loci reveals multiple mechanisms for the generation of structural diversity and the ability to form complex heptoses.

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Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WCIE 7HT, UK.


We recently demonstrated that Campylobacter jejuni produces a capsular polysaccharide (CPS) that is the major antigenic component of the classical Penner serotyping system distinguishing Campylobacter into >60 groups. Although the wide variety of C. jejuni serotypes are suggestive of structural differences in CPS, the genetic mechanisms of such differences are unknown. In this study we sequenced biosynthetic cps regions, ranging in size from 15 to 34 kb, from selected C. jejuni strains of HS:1, HS:19, HS:23, HS:36, HS:23/36 and HS:41 serotypes. Comparison of the determined cps sequences of the HS:1, HS:19 and HS:41 strains with the sequenced strain, NCTC11168 (HS:2), provides evidence for multiple mechanisms of structural variation including exchange of capsular genes and entire clusters by horizontal transfer, gene duplication, deletion, fusion and contingency gene variation. In contrast, the HS:23, HS:36 and HS:23/36 cps sequences were highly conserved. We report the first detailed structural analysis of 81-176 (HS:23/36) and G1 (HS:1) and refine the previous structural interpretations of the HS:19, HS:23, HS:36 and HS:41 serostrains. For the first time, we demonstrate the commonality and function of a second heptose biosynthetic pathway for Campylobacter CPS independent of the pathway for lipooligosaccharide (LOS) biosynthesis and identify a novel heptosyltransferase utilized by this alternate pathway. Furthermore, we show the retention of two functional heptose isomerases in Campylobacter and the sharing of a phosphatase for both LOS and CPS heptose biosynthesis.

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