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Mol Microbiol. 2006 Jun;60(5):1091-8.

Poly-gamma-glutamate in bacteria.

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Unité Toxines et Pathogénie Bactérienne (CNRS, URA 2172), Institut Pasteur, 28 rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Poly-gamma-glutamate (PGA), a natural polymer, is synthesized by several bacteria (all Gram-positive), one archaea and one eukaryote. PGA has diverse biochemical properties, enabling it to play different roles, depending on the organism and its environment. Indeed, PGA allows bacteria to survive at high salt concentrations and may also be involved in virulence. The minimal gene sets required for PGA synthesis were recently defined. There are currently two nomenclatures depending on the PGA final status: cap, for 'capsule', when PGA is surface associated or pgs, for 'polyglutamate synthase', when PGA is released. The minimal gene sets contain four genes termed cap or pgs B, C, A and E. The PGA synthesis complex is membrane-anchored and uses glutamate and ATP as substrates. Schematically, the reaction may be divided into two steps, PGA synthesis and PGA transport through the membrane. PGA synthesis depends primarily on CapB-CapC (or PgsB-PgsC), whereas PGA transport requires the presence, or the addition, of CapA-CapE (or PgsAA-PgsE). The synthesis complex is probably responsible for the stereochemical specificity of PGA composition. Finally, PGA may be anchored to the bacterial surface or released. An additional enzyme is involved in this reaction: either CapD, a gamma-glutamyl-transpeptidase that catalyses anchorage of the PGA, or PgsS, a hydrolase that facilitates release. The anchoring of PGA to the bacterial surface is important for virulence. All cap genes are therefore potential targets for inhibitors specifically blocking PGA synthesis or anchorage.

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