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J Biol Chem. 1990 Apr 25;265(12):6734-43.

Predominant structural features of the cell wall arabinogalactan of Mycobacterium tuberculosis as revealed through characterization of oligoglycosyl alditol fragments by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and by 1H and 13C NMR analyses.

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Department of Microbiology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins 80523.


The peptidoglycan-bound arabinogalactan of a virulent strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis was per-O-methylated, partially hydrolyzed with acid, and the resulting oligosaccharides reduced and O-pentadeute-rioethylated. The per-O-alkylated oligoglycosyl alditol fragments were separated by high pressure liquid chromatography and the structures of 43 of these constituents determined by 1H NMR and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The arabinogalactan was shown to consist of a galactan containing alternating 5-linked beta-D-galactofuranosyl (Galf) and 6-linked beta-D-Galf residues. The arabinan chains are attached to C-5 of some of the 6-linked Galf residues. The arabinan is comprised of at least three major structural domains. One is composed of linear 5-linked alpha-D-arabinofuranosyl (Araf) residues; a second consists of branched 3,5-linked alpha-D-Araf units substituted with 5-linked alpha-D-Araf residues at both branched positions. The non-reducing terminal region of the arabinan was characterized by a 3,5-linked alpha-D-Araf residue substituted at both branched positions with the disaccharide beta-D-Araf-(1----2)-alpha-D-Araf. 13C NMR of intact soluble arabinogalactan established the presence of both alpha- and beta-Araf residues in this domain. This non-reducing terminal motif apparently provides the structural basis of the dominant immunogenicity of arabinogalactan within mycobacteria. A rhamnosyl residue occupies the reducing terminus of the galactan core and may link the arabinogalactan to the peptidoglycan. Evidence is also presented for the presence of minor structural features involving terminal mannopyranosyl units. Models for most of the heteropolysaccharide are proposed which should increase our understanding of a molecule responsible for much of the immunogenicity, pathogenicity, and peculiar physical properties of the mycobacterial cell.

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