In vitro bacterial polysaccharide biosynthesis: defining the functions of Wzy and Wzz

Nat Chem Biol. 2010 Jun;6(6):418-23. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.351. Epub 2010 Apr 25.


Polysaccharides constitute a major component of bacterial cell surfaces and play critical roles in bacteria-host interactions. The biosynthesis of such molecules, however, has mainly been characterized through in vivo genetic studies, thus precluding discernment of the details of this pathway. Accordingly, we present a chemical approach that enabled reconstitution of the E. coli O-polysaccharide biosynthetic pathway in vitro. Starting with chemically prepared undecaprenyl-diphospho-N-acetyl-D-galactosamine, the E. coli O86 oligosaccharide repeating unit was assembled by means of sequential enzymatic glycosylation. Successful expression of the putative polymerase Wzy using a chaperone coexpression system then allowed demonstration of polymerization in vitro using this substrate. Analysis of more substrates revealed a defined mode of recognition for Wzy toward the lipid moiety. Specific polysaccharide chain length modality was furthermore demonstrated to result from the action of Wzz. Collectively, polysaccharide biosynthesis was chemically reconstituted in vitro, providing a well defined system for further underpinning molecular details of this biosynthetic pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Vaccines / chemical synthesis
  • Cell Membrane / enzymology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*
  • Glycosyltransferases / biosynthesis
  • Glycosyltransferases / genetics
  • Glycosyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Oligosaccharides / biosynthesis
  • Oligosaccharides / chemistry
  • Peptidoglycan / biosynthesis
  • Polysaccharides / biosynthesis
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / biosynthesis*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Teichoic Acids / biosynthesis
  • Teichoic Acids / chemistry


  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Polysaccharides
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Teichoic Acids
  • wzzB protein, E coli
  • colanic acid
  • Glycosyltransferases
  • Wzy polymerase, E coli