Send to

Choose Destination
MBio. 2018 May 29;9(3). pii: e00641-18. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00641-18.

A New Family of Capsule Polymerases Generates Teichoic Acid-Like Capsule Polymers in Gram-Negative Pathogens.

Author information

Institute of Clinical Biochemistry, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.
GSK, Siena, Italy.
Institute for Microbiology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany.
Department of Biosciences, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria.
Institute of Clinical Biochemistry, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany


Group 2 capsule polymers represent crucial virulence factors of Gram-negative pathogenic bacteria. They are synthesized by enzymes called capsule polymerases. In this report, we describe a new family of polymerases that combine glycosyltransferase and hexose- and polyol-phosphate transferase activity to generate complex poly(oligosaccharide phosphate) and poly(glycosylpolyol phosphate) polymers, the latter of which display similarity to wall teichoic acid (WTA), a cell wall component of Gram-positive bacteria. Using modeling and multiple-sequence alignment, we showed homology between the predicted polymerase domains and WTA type I biosynthesis enzymes, creating a link between Gram-negative and Gram-positive cell wall biosynthesis processes. The polymerases of the new family are highly abundant and found in a variety of capsule-expressing pathogens such as Neisseria meningitidis, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Bibersteinia trehalosi, and Escherichia coli with both human and animal hosts. Five representative candidates were purified, their activities were confirmed using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and their predicted folds were validated by site-directed mutagenesis.IMPORTANCE Bacterial capsules play an important role in the interaction between a pathogen and the immune system of its host. During the last decade, capsule polymerases have become attractive tools for the production of capsule polymers applied as antigens in glycoconjugate vaccine formulations. Conventional production of glycoconjugate vaccines requires the cultivation of the pathogen and thus the highest biosafety standards, leading to tremendous costs. With regard to animal husbandry, where vaccines could avoid the extensive use of antibiotics, conventional production is not sufficiently cost-effective. In contrast, enzymatic synthesis of capsule polymers is pathogen-free and fast, offers high stereo- and regioselectivity, and works with high efficacy. The new capsule polymerase family described here vastly increases the toolbox of enzymes available for biotechnology purposes. Representatives are abundantly found in human pathogens but also in animal pathogens, paving the way for the exploitation of polymerases for the development of a new generation of vaccines for animal husbandry.


Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae; Haemophilus influenzae; TagF; capsular polysaccharide; capsule; enzymatic synthesis; nuclear magnetic resonance; polymerases; polymers; teichoic acids; vaccines; veterinary vaccine development

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center