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Can J Microbiol. 2009 May;55(5):627-32. doi: 10.1139/w09-003.

Fusobacterium nucleatum, the first Gram-negative bacterium demonstrated to produce polyglutamate.

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Institut Pasteur, Toxines et Pathogénie Bactérienne, CNRS, URA 2172, 25 rue du Dr Roux, Paris cedex 15, France.


Poly-gamma-glutamate has been described in many Gram-positive organisms. When anchored to the surface, it is a capsule and as such a virulence factor. Based on sequence similarities, few Gram-negative organisms have been suggested to synthesize poly-gamma-glutamate. For the first time, a Gram-negative bacterium, Fusobacterium nucleatum, is shown to produce and secrete poly-gamma-glutamate. Putative poly-gamma-glutamate-synthesizing genes from Gram-negative organisms have been compared with their Gram-positive homologs by in silico analysis, i.e., gene sequence and phylogenetic analysis. Clusters of three instead of four genes were highlighted by our screen. The products of the first two genes display similarity with their Gram-positive equivalents, yet the sequences from the Gram-negative organisms can be distinguished from those of the Gram-positives. Interestingly, the sequence of the predicted product of the third gene is conserved among Gram-negative bacteria but displays no similarity to that of either the third or fourth gene of the Gram-positive operons. It is suggested that, like for Gram-positive bacteria, poly-gamma-glutamate has a role in virulence for pathogens and one in survival for other Gram-negative bacteria.

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