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J Bacteriol. 1996 Aug;178(16):4885-93.

Organization of the Escherichia coli K-12 gene cluster responsible for production of the extracellular polysaccharide colanic acid.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Colanic acid (CA) is an extracellular polysaccharide produced by most Escherichia coli strains as well as by other species of the family Enterobacteriaceae. We have determined the sequence of a 23-kb segment of the E. coli K-12 chromosome which includes the cluster of genes necessary for production of CA. The CA cluster comprises 19 genes. Two other sequenced genes (orf1.3 and galF), which are situated between the CA cluster and the O-antigen cluster, were shown to be unnecessary for CA production. The CA cluster includes genes for synthesis of GDP-L-fucose, one of the precursors of CA, and the gene for one of the enzymes in this pathway (GDP-D-mannose 4,6-dehydratase) was identified by biochemical assay. Six of the inferred proteins show sequence similarity to glycosyl transferases, and two others have sequence similarity to acetyl transferases. Another gene (wzx) is predicted to encode a protein with multiple transmembrane segments and may function in export of the CA repeat unit from the cytoplasm into the periplasm in a process analogous to O-unit export. The first three genes of the cluster are predicted to encode an outer membrane lipoprotein, a phosphatase, and an inner membrane protein with an ATP-binding domain. Since homologs of these genes are found in other extracellular polysaccharide gene clusters, they may have a common function, such as export of polysaccharide from the cell.

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