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J Bacteriol. 1996 Feb;178(4):1047-52.

Galactofuranose biosynthesis in Escherichia coli K-12: identification and cloning of UDP-galactopyranose mutase.

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Glaxo Wellcome Medicines Research Centre, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.


We have cloned two open reading frames (orf6 and orf8) from the Escherichia coli K-12 rfb region. The genes were expressed in E. coli under control of the T7lac promoter, producing large quantities of recombinant protein, most of which accumulated in insoluble inclusion bodies. Sufficient soluble protein was obtained, however, for use in a radiometric assay designed to detect UDP-galactopyranose mutase activity (the conversion of UDP-galactopyranose to UDP-galactofuranose). The assay is based upon high-pressure liquid chromatography separation of sugar phosphates released from both forms of UDP-galactose by phosphodiesterase treatment. The crude orf6 gene product converted UDP-[alpha-D-U-14C]-galactopyranose to a product which upon phosphodiesterase treatment gave a compound with a retention time identical to that of synthetic alpha-galactofuranose-1-phosphate. No mutase activity was detected in extracts from cells lacking the orf6 expression plasmid or from orf8-expressing cells. The orf6 gene product was purified by anion-exchange chromatography and hydrophobic interaction chromatography. Both the crude extract and the purified protein converted 6 to 9% of the UDP-galactopyranose to the furanose form. The enzyme was also shown to catalyze the reverse reaction; in this case an approximately 86% furanose-to-pyranose conversion was observed. These observations strongly suggest that orf6 encodes UDP-galactopyranose mutase (EC, and we propose that the gene be designated glf accordingly. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of purified UDP-galactopyranose mutase revealed one major band, and analysis by electrospray mass spectrometry indicated a single major species with a molecular weight of 42,960 +/- 8, in accordance with that calculated for the Glf protein. N-terminal sequencing revealed that the first 15 amino acids of the recombinant protein corresponded to those expected from the published sequence. UV-visible spectra of purified recombinant enzyme indicated that the protein contains a flavin cofactor, which we have identified as flavin adenine dinucleotide.

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