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J Biol Chem. 2005 Sep 16;280(37):32362-71. Epub 2005 Jul 21.

Deletion of Cg-emb in corynebacterianeae leads to a novel truncated cell wall arabinogalactan, whereas inactivation of Cg-ubiA results in an arabinan-deficient mutant with a cell wall galactan core.

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School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, UK.


The cell wall of Mycobacterium tuberculosis has a complex ultrastructure that consists of mycolic acids connected to peptidoglycan via arabinogalactan (AG) and abbreviated as the mAGP complex. The mAGP complex is crucial for the survival and pathogenicity of M. tuberculosis and is the target of several anti-tubercular agents. Apart from sharing a similar mAGP and the availability of the complete genome sequence, Corynebacterium glutamicum has proven useful in the study of orthologous M. tuberculosis genes essential for viability. Here we examined the effects of particular genes involved in AG polymerization by gene deletion in C. glutamicum. The anti-tuberculosis drug ethambutol is thought to target a set of arabinofuranosyltransferases (Emb) that are involved in arabinan polymerization. Deletion of emb in C. glutamicum results in a slow growing mutant with profound morphological changes. Chemical analysis revealed a dramatic reduction of arabinose resulting in a novel truncated AG structure possessing only terminal arabinofuranoside (t-Araf) residues with a corresponding loss of cell wall bound mycolic acids. Treatment of wild-type C. glutamicum with ethambutol and subsequent cell wall analyses resulted in an identical phenotype comparable to the C. glutamicum emb deletion mutant. Additionally, disruption of ubiA in C. glutamicum, the first enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of the sugar donor decaprenol phosphoarabinose (DPA), resulted in a complete loss of cell wall arabinan. Herein, we establish for the first time, (i) that in contrast to M. tuberculosis embA and embB mutants, deletion of C. glutamicum emb leads to a highly truncated AG possessing t-Araf residues, (ii) the exact site of attachment of arabinan chains in AG, and (iii) DPA is the only Araf sugar donor in AG biosynthesis suggesting the presence of a novel enzyme responsible for "priming" the galactan domain for further elaboration by Emb, resulting in the final maturation of the native AG polysaccharide.

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