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Science. 2005 Mar 18;307(5716):1778-81.

Human symbionts use a host-like pathway for surface fucosylation.

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Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The mammalian intestine harbors a beneficial microbiota numbering approximately 10(12) organisms per gram of colonic content. The host tolerates this tremendous bacterial load while maintaining the ability to efficiently respond to pathogenic organisms. In this study, we show that the Bacteroides use a mammalian-like pathway to decorate numerous surface capsular polysaccharides and glycoproteins with l-fucose, an abundant surface molecule of intestinal epithelial cells, resulting in the coordinated expression of this surface molecule by host and symbiont. A Bacteroides mutant deficient in the ability to cover its surface with L-fucose is defective in colonizing the mammalian intestine under competitive conditions.

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