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Identification of a genetic locus essential for capsule sialylation in type III group B streptococci.

By M R Wessels, R F Haft, L M Heggen and C E Rubens


The type III capsular polysaccharide of group B streptococci (GBS) consists of a linear backbone with short side chains ending in residues of N-acetylneuraminic acid, or sialic acid. The presence of sialic acid on the surface of the organism inhibits activation of the alternative pathway of complement and is thought to be an important element in the virulence function of the capsule. We showed previously that a mutant strain of GBS that expressed a sialic acid-deficient, or asialo, form of the type III polysaccharide was avirulent, supporting a virulence function for capsular sialic acid. We now report the derivation of an asialo capsule mutant from a highly encapsulated wild-type strain of type III GBS, strain COH1, by insertional mutagenesis with transposon Tn916 delta E. In contrast to the wild-type strain, the asialo mutant strain COH1-11 was sensitive to phagocytic killing by human leukocytes in vitro and was relatively avirulent in a neonatal rat model of GBS infection. The asialo mutant accumulated free intracellular sialic acid, suggesting a defect subsequent to sialic acid synthesis in the biosynthetic pathway leading to capsule sialylation. The specific biosynthetic defect in mutant strain COH1-11 was found to be in the activation of free sialic acid to CMP-sialic acid: CMP-sialic acid synthetase activity was present in the wild-type strain COH1 but was not detected in the asialo mutant strain COH1-11. One of the two transposon insertions in the asialo mutant COH1-11 mapped to the same chromosomal location as one of the two Tn916 insertions in the previously reported asialo mutant COH31-21, identifying this site as a genetic locus necessary for expression of CMP-sialic acid synthetase activity. These studies demonstrate that the enzymatic synthesis of CMP-sialic acid by GBS is an essential step in sialylation of the type III capsular polysaccharide

Topics: Research Article
Year: 1992
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:257641
Provided by: PubMed Central
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