Genetic and biochemical characterizations of enzymes involved in Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 2 capsule synthesis demonstrate that Cps2T (WchF) catalyzes the committed step by addition of β1-4 rhamnose, the second sugar residue in the repeat unit

Academic Article


  • Five genes (cps2E, cps2T, cps2F, cps2G, and cps2I) are predicted to encode the glycosyltransferases responsible for synthesis of the Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 2 capsule repeat unit, which is polymerized to yield a branched surface structure containing glucose-glucuronic acid linked to a glucose-rhamnose-rhamnose-rhamnose backbone. Cps2E is the initiating glycosyltransferase, but experimental evidence supporting the functions of the remaining glycosyltransferases is lacking. To biochemically characterize the glycosyltransferases, the donor substrate dTDP-rhamnose was first synthesized using recombinant S. pneumoniae enzymes Cps2L, Cps2M, Cps2N, and Cps2O. In in vitro assays with each of the glycosyltransferases, only reaction mixtures containing recombinant Cps2T, dTDP-rhamnose, and the Cps2E product (undecaprenyl pyrophosphate glucose) generated a new product, which was consistent with lipid-linked glucose-rhamnose. cps2T, cps2F, and cps2I deletion mutants produced no detectable capsule, but trace amounts of capsule were detectable in Δcps2G mutants, suggesting that Cps2G adds a nonbackbone sugar. All Δcps2F, Δcps2G, and Δcps2I mutants contained different secondary suppressor mutations in cps2E, indicating that the initial mutations were lethal in the absence of reduced repeat unit synthesis. Δcps2T mutants did not contain secondary mutations affecting capsule synthesis. The requirement for secondary mutations in mutants lacking Cps2F, Cps2G, and Cps2I indicates that these activities occur downstream of the committed step in capsule synthesis and reveal that Cps2T catalyzes this step. Therefore, Cps2T is the β1-4 rhamnosyltransferase that adds the second sugar to the repeat unit and, as the committed step in type 2 repeat unit synthesis, is predicted to be an important point of capsule regulation. © 2012, American Society for Microbiology.
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    Author List

  • James DBA; Yother J
  • Start Page

  • 6479
  • End Page

  • 6489
  • Volume

  • 194
  • Issue

  • 23