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Infect Immun. 2005 Oct;73(10):6727-35.

Identification of a novel sialic acid transporter in Haemophilus ducreyi.

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  • 1Buck Institute for Age Research, Novato, CA 94945, USA.


Haemophilus ducreyi, the causative agent of chancroid, produces a lipooligosaccharide (LOS) which terminates in N-acetyllactosamine. This glycoform can be further extended by the addition of a single sialic acid residue to the terminal galactose moiety. H. ducreyi does not synthesize sialic acid, which must be acquired from the host during infection or from the culture medium when the bacteria are grown in vitro. However, H. ducreyi does not have genes that are highly homologous to the genes encoding known bacterial sialic acid transporters. In this study, we identified the sialic acid transporter by screening strains in a library of random transposon mutants for those mutants that were unable to add sialic acid to N-acetyllactosamine-containing LOS. Mutants that reacted with the monoclonal antibody 3F11, which recognizes the terminal lactosamine structure, and lacked reactivity with the lectin Maackia amurensis agglutinin, which recognizes alpha2,3-linked sialic acid, were further characterized to demonstrate that they produced a N-acetyllactosamine-containing LOS by silver-stained sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometric analyses. The genes interrupted in these mutants were mapped to a four-gene cluster with similarity to genes encoding bacterial ABC transporters. Uptake assays using radiolabeled sialic acid confirmed that the mutants were unable to transport sialic acid. This study is the first report of bacteria using an ABC transporter for sialic acid uptake.

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