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J Bacteriol. 1991 Feb;173(4):1420-31.

Expression of two structurally distinct D-galactan O antigens in the lipopolysaccharide of Klebsiella pneumoniae serotype O1.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


The lipopolysaccharide (LPS) molecule is an important virulence determinant in Klebsiella pneumoniae. Studies on the serotype O1 LPS were initiated to determine the basis for antigenic heterogeneity previously observed in the O1 side chain polysaccharides and to resolve apparent ambiguities in the reported polysaccharide structure. Detailed chemical analysis, involving methylation and 1H- and 13C-nuclear magnetic resonance studies, demonstrated that the O-side chain polysaccharides of serotype O1 LPS contained a mixture of two structurally distinct D-galactan polymers. The repeating unit structures of these two polymers were identified as [----3)-beta-D-Galf-(1----3)-alpha-D-Galp-(1----] (D-galactan I) and [----3)-alpha-D-Galp-(1----3)-beta-D-Galp-(1----] (D-Galactan II). D-Galactan I polysaccharides were heterogeneous in size and were detected throughout the sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) profile of O1 LPS. In contrast, D-galactan II was confined to the higher-molecular-weight region. The structures of the two D-galactans were not influenced by simultaneous synthesis of a capsular K antigen. Apparently, neither of the D-galactans constitutes a common antigen widespread in Klebsiella spp. as determined by immunochemical analysis. Examination of the LPSs in mutants indicated that expression of D-galactan I can occur independently of D-galactan II. Transconjugants of Escherichia coli K-12 strains carrying the his region of K. pneumoniae were constructed by chromosome mobilization with RP4::mini-Mu. In these transconjugants, the O antigen encoded by the his-linked rfb locus was determined to be D-galactan I, suggesting that genes involved in the expression of D-galactan II are not closely linked to the rfb cluster.

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