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Mol Gen Genet. 1987 Jun;208(1-2):242-6.

Analysis of the K1 capsule biosynthesis genes of Escherichia coli: definition of three functional regions for capsule production.


Transposon and deletion analysis of the cloned K1 capsule biosynthesis genes of Escherichia coli revealed that approximately 17 kb of DNA, split into three functional regions, is required for capsule production. One block (region 1) is required for translocation of polysaccharide to the cell surface and mutations in this region result in the intracellular appearance of polymer indistinguishable on immunoelectrophoresis to that found on the surface of K1 encapsulated bacteria. This material was released from the cell by osmotic shock indicating that the polysaccharide was probably present in the periplasmic space. Insertions in a second block (region 2) completely abolished polymer production and this second region is believed to encode the enzymes for the biosynthesis and polymerisation of the K1 antigen. Addition of exogenous N-acetylneuraminic acid to one insertion mutant in this region restored its ability to express surface polymer as judged by K1 phage sensitivity. This insertion probably defines genes involved in biosynthesis of N-acetylneuraminic acid. Insertions in a third block (region 3) result in the intracellular appearance of polysaccharide with a very low electrophoretic mobility. The presence of the cloned K1 capsule biosynthesis genes on a multicopy plasmid in an E. coli K-12 strain did not increase the yields of capsular polysaccharide produced compared to the K1+ isolate from which the genes were cloned.

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