Lipoarabinomannans: from structure to biosynthesis

Biochimie. Jan-Feb 2003;85(1-2):153-66. doi: 10.1016/s0300-9084(03)00048-8.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, is one of the most effective human pathogens and the molecular basis of its virulence remains poorly understood. Here, we review our current knowledge about the structure and biosynthesis of the mycobacterial cell-wall lipoglycans, lipoarabinomannans (LAM). LAM are ubiquitous of mycobacteria and appear as the most potent non-peptidic molecules to modulate the host immune response. Nevertheless, LAM structure differs according to the mycobacterial species and three types of LAM have been described: mannose-capped LAM (ManLAM), phospho-myo-inositol-capped LAM (PILAM) and non-capped LAM (AraLAM). The type of capping is a major structural feature determining the ability of LAM to modulate the immune response. ManLAM, found in slow-growing mycobacteria, such as M. tuberculosis, have been demonstrated to be powerful anti-inflammatory molecules and emerge as key virulence factors that may be relevant drug targets. LAM-like molecules are not only confined to mycobacteria but are also present in actinomycetes (including the genera Rhodococcus, Corynebacterium or Gordonia). This offers the possibility of comparative studies that should help in deciphering the structure-function relationships and biosynthesis of these complex molecules in the future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actinobacteria / pathogenicity
  • Antigens, Bacterial / biosynthesis*
  • Antigens, Bacterial / chemistry*
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology
  • Arabinose / chemistry
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharides / biosynthesis*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / chemistry*
  • Mannans / chemistry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Structure
  • Mycobacterium bovis / pathogenicity
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / chemistry
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity*
  • Phosphatidylinositols / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Virulence Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Virulence Factors / chemistry*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Mannans
  • Phosphatidylinositols
  • Polysaccharides
  • Virulence Factors
  • lipoarabinomannan
  • araban
  • Arabinose