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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Aug;85(16):6157-61.

Many pulmonary pathogenic bacteria bind specifically to the carbohydrate sequence GalNAc beta 1-4Gal found in some glycolipids.

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Laboratory of Structural Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Pneumonia is one of the most common causes of death from infectious disease in the United States. To examine the possible role of carbohydrates as adhesion receptors for infection, several pulmonary pathogenic bacteria were studied for binding to glycosphingolipids. Radiolabeled bacteria were layered on thin-layer chromatograms of separated glycosphingolipids, and bound bacteria were detected by autoradiography. The classic triad of infectious bacteria found in cystic fibrosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Haemophilus influenzae, and Staphylococcus aureus, along with other bacteria commonly implicated in typical pneumonia, such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and certain Escherichia coli, bind specifically to fucosylasialo-GM1 (Fuc alpha 1-2Gal beta 1-3GalNAc beta 1-4Gal beta 1-4Cer), asialo-GM1 (Gal beta 1-3GalNAc beta 1-4Gal beta-1-4Galc beta 1-1Cer), and asialo-GM2 (GalNAc beta 1-4Gal beta 1-4Glc beta 1-1Cer). Bacteria maintained in nutrient medium bind better than the same cells suspended in buffer. They do not bind to galactosylceramide, glucosylceramide, lactosylceramide, trihexosylceramide, globoside, paragloboside, Forssman glycosphingolipid, or several other glycosphingolipids tested, including the gangliosides GM1, GM2, GM3, GD1a, GD1b, GT1b, and Cad. The finding that these pathogens do not bind to lactosylceramide suggests that beta 1-4-linked GalNAc, which is positioned internally in fucosylasialo-GM1 and asialo-GM1 and terminally in asialo-GM2, is required for binding. beta-N-Acetylgalactosamine itself, however, is not sufficient for binding, as the bacteria did not bind to globoside, which contains the terminal sequence GalNAc beta 1-3Gal. These data suggest that these bacteria require at least terminal or internal GalNAc beta 1-4Gal sequences unsubstituted with sialyl residues for binding. Other bacteria, including Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Salmonella species, and some E. coli, do not bind to the GalNAc beta 1-4Gal sequence. The biological relevance of these data is suggested by our finding that substantial amounts of asialo-GM1 occur in human lung tissue.

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