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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2011;715:213-26. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-0940-9_13.

Bacterial extracellular polysaccharides.

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School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, 4811, Australia.


Extracellular polysaccharides are as structurally and functionally diverse as the bacteria that synthesise them. They can be present in many forms, including cell-bound capsular polysaccharides, unbound "slime", and as O-antigen component of lipopolysaccharide, with an equally wide range of biological functions. These include resistance to desiccation, protection against nonspecific and specific host immunity, and adherence. Unsurprisingly then, much effort has been made to catalogue the enormous structural complexity of the extracellular polysaccharides made possible by the wide assortment of available monosaccharide combinations, non-carbohydrate residues, and linkage types, and to elucidate their biosynthesis and export. In addition, the work is driven by the commercial potential of these microbial substances in food, pharmaceutics and biomedical industries. Most recently, bacteria-mediated environmental restoration and bioleaching have been attracting much attention owing to their potential to remediate environmental effluents produced by the mining and metallurgy industries. In spite of technological advances in chemistry, molecular biology and imaging techniques that allowed for considerable expansion of knowledge pertaining to the bacterial surface polysaccharides, current understanding of the mechanisms of synthesis and regulation of extracellular polysaccharides is yet to fully explain their structural intricacy and functional variability.

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