Elucidation of the CMP-pseudaminic acid pathway in Helicobacter pylori: synthesis from UDP-N-acetylglucosamine by a single enzymatic reaction

Glycobiology. 2006 Sep;16(9):8C-14C. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwl010. Epub 2006 Jun 3.


Flagellin glycosylation is a necessary modification allowing flagellar assembly, bacterial motility, colonization, and hence virulence for the gastrointestinal pathogen Helicobacter pylori [Josenhans, C., Vossebein, L., Friedrich, S., and Suerbaum, S. (2002) FEMS Microbiol. Lett., 210, 165-172; Schirm, M., Schoenhofen, I.C., Logan, S.M., Waldron, K.C., and Thibault, P. (2005) Anal. Chem., 77, 7774-7782]. A causative agent of gastric and duodenal ulcers, H. pylori, heavily modifies its flagellin with the sialic acid-like sugar 5,7-diacetamido-3,5,7,9-tetradeoxy-l-glycero-alpha-l-manno-nonulosonic acid (pseudaminic acid). Because this sugar is unique to bacteria, its biosynthetic pathway offers potential as a novel therapeutic target. We have identified six H. pylori enzymes, which reconstitute the complete biosynthesis of pseudaminic acid, and its nucleotide-activated form CMP-pseudaminic acid, from UDP-N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc). The pathway intermediates and final product were identified from monitoring sequential reactions with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, thereby confirming the function of each biosynthetic enzyme. Remarkably, the conversion of UDP-GlcNAc to CMP-pseudaminic acid was achieved in a single reaction combining six enzymes. This represents the first complete in vitro enzymatic synthesis of a sialic acid-like sugar and sets the groundwork for future small molecule inhibitor screening and design. Moreover, this study provides a strategy for efficient large-scale synthesis of novel medically relevant bacterial sugars that has not been attainable by chemical methods alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cytidine Monophosphate / metabolism
  • Duodenal Ulcer / microbiology
  • Flagellin / metabolism*
  • Glycosylation
  • Helicobacter pylori / enzymology*
  • Helicobacter pylori / pathogenicity
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / physiology*
  • Sugar Acids / metabolism*
  • Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylglucosamine / metabolism*


  • 5,7-diacetamido-3,5,7,9-tetradeoxynonulosonic acid
  • Sugar Acids
  • Flagellin
  • Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylglucosamine
  • Cytidine Monophosphate