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Infect Immun. 2012 Jan;80(1):22-30. doi: 10.1128/IAI.05920-11. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

Novel protein substrates of the phospho-form modification system in Neisseria gonorrhoeae and their connection to O-linked protein glycosylation.

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Department of Molecular Biosciences, Center for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, and Glyconor Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Unit, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


The zwitterionic phospho-form moieties phosphoethanolamine (PE) and phosphocholine (PC) are important components of bacterial membranes and cell surfaces. The major type IV pilus subunit protein of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, PilE, undergoes posttranslational modifications with these moieties via the activity of the pilin phospho-form transferase PptA. A number of observations relating to colocalization of phospho-form and O-linked glycan attachment sites in PilE suggested that these modifications might be either functionally or mechanistically linked or interact directly or indirectly. Moreover, it was unknown whether the phenomenon of phospho-form modification was solely dedicated to PilE or if other neisserial protein targets might exist. In light of these concerns, we screened for evidence of phospho-form modification on other membrane glycoproteins targeted by the broad-spectrum O-linked glycosylation system. In this way, two periplasmic lipoproteins, NGO1043 and NGO1237, were identified as substrates for PE addition. As seen previously for PilE, sites of PE modifications were clustered with those of glycan attachment. In the case of NGO1043, evidence for at least six serine phospho-form attachment sites was found, and further analyses revealed that at least two of these serines were also attachment sites for glycan. Finally, mutations altering glycosylation status led to the presence of pptA-dependent PC modifications on both proteins. Together, these results reinforce the associations established in PilE and provide evidence for dynamic interplay between phospho-form modification and O-linked glycosylation. The observations also suggest that phospho-form modifications likely contribute biologically at both intracellular and extracellular levels.

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