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J Biol Chem. 2011 Aug 12;286(32):28128-37. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.255794. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa D-arabinofuranose biosynthetic pathway and its role in type IV pilus assembly.

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Michael G DeGroote Institute for Infectious Diseases Research and the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8N 3Z5, Canada.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa strains PA7 and Pa5196 glycosylate their type IVa pilins with α1,5-linked D-arabinofuranose (d-Araf), a rare sugar configuration identical to that found in cell wall polymers of the Corynebacterineae. Despite this chemical identity, the pathway for biosynthesis of α1,5-D-Araf in Gram-negative bacteria is unknown. Bioinformatics analyses pointed to a cluster of seven P. aeruginosa genes, including homologues of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis genes Rv3806c, Rv3790, and Rv3791, required for synthesis of a polyprenyl-linked d-ribose precursor and its epimerization to D-Araf. Pa5196 mutants lacking the orthologues of those genes had non-arabinosylated pilins, poor twitching motility, and significantly fewer surface pili than the wild type even in a retraction-deficient (pilT) background. The Pa5196 pilus system assembled heterologous non-glycosylated pilins efficiently, demonstrating that it does not require post-translationally modified subunits. Together the data suggest that pilins of group IV strains need to be glycosylated for productive subunit-subunit interactions. A recombinant P. aeruginosa PAO1 strain co-expressing the genes for d-Araf biosynthesis, the pilin modification enzyme TfpW, and the acceptor PilA(IV) produced arabinosylated pili, confirming that the Pa5196 genes identified are both necessary and sufficient. A P. aeruginosa epimerase knock-out could be complemented with the corresponding Mycobacterium smegmatis gene, demonstrating conservation between the systems of the Corynebacterineae and Pseudomonas. This work describes a novel Gram-negative pathway for biosynthesis of d-Araf, a key therapeutic target in Corynebacterineae.

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