Mass spectrometry analyses of the complex polar flagella from Helicobacter pylori demonstrated that both FlaA and FlaB proteins are post-translationally modified with pseudaminic acid (Pse5Ac7Ac, 5,7-diacetamido-3,5,7,9-tetradeoxy-l-glycero-l-manno -n o n-ulosonic acid). Unlike Campylobacter, flagellar glycosylation in Helicobacter displays little heterogeneity in isoform or glycoform distribution, although all glycosylation sites are located in the central core region of the protein monomer in a manner similar to that found in Campylobacter. Bioinformatic analysis revealed five genes (HP0840, HP0178, HP0326A, HP0326B, HP0114) homologous to other prokaryote genes previously reported to be involved in motility, flagellar glycosylation or polysaccharide biosynthesis. Insertional mutagenesis of four of these homologues in Helicobacter (HP0178, HP0326A, HP0326B, HP0114) resulted in a non-motile phenotype, no structural flagella filament and only minor amounts of flagellin protein detectable by Western immunoblot. However, mRNA levels for the flagellin structural genes remained unaffected by each mutation. In view of the combined bioinformatic and structural evidence indicating a role for these gene products in glycan biosynthesis, subsequent investigations focused on the functional characterization of the respective gene products. A novel approach was devised to identify biosynthetic sugar nucleotide precursors from intracellular metabolic pools of parent and isogenic mutants using capillary electrophoresis-electrospray mass spectrometry (CE-ESMS) and precursor ion scanning. HP0326A, HP0326B and the HP0178 gene products are directly involved in the biosynthesis of the nucleotide-activated form of Pse, CMP-Pse. Mass spectral analyses of the cytosolic extract from the HP0326A and HP0326B isogenic mutants revealed the accumulation of a mono- and a diacetamido trideoxyhexose UDP sugar nucleotide precursor.