Expression and characterization of a Mycoplasma genitalium glycosyltransferase in membrane glycolipid biosynthesis: potential target against mycoplasma infections

J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 14;286(41):35367-35379. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.214148. Epub 2011 Aug 11.


Mycoplasmas contain glycoglycerolipids in their plasma membrane as key structural components involved in bilayer properties and stability. A membrane-associated glycosyltransferase (GT), GT MG517, has been identified in Mycoplasma genitalium, which sequentially produces monoglycosyl- and diglycosyldiacylglycerols. When recombinantly expressed in Escherichia coli, the enzyme was functional in vivo and yielded membrane glycolipids from which Glcβ1,6GlcβDAG was identified as the main product. A chaperone co-expression system and extraction with CHAPS detergent afforded soluble protein that was purified by affinity chromatography. GT MG517 transfers glucosyl and galactosyl residues from UDP-Glc and UDP-Gal to dioleoylglycerol (DOG) acceptor to form the corresponding β-glycosyl-DOG, which then acts as acceptor to give β-diglycosyl-DOG products. The enzyme (GT2 family) follows Michaelis-Menten kinetics. k(cat) is about 5-fold higher for UDP-Gal with either DOG or monoglucosyldioleoylglycerol acceptors, but it shows better binding for UDP-Glc than UDP-Gal, as reflected by the lower K(m), which results in similar k(cat)/K(m) values for both donors. Although sequentially adding glycosyl residues with β-1,6 connectivity, the first glycosyltransferase activity (to DOG) is about 1 order of magnitude higher than the second (to monoglucosyldioleoylglycerol). Because the ratio between the non-bilayer-forming monoglycosyldiacylglycerols and the bilayer-prone diglycosyldiacylglycerols contributes to regulate the properties of the plasma membrane, both synthase activities are probably regulated. Dioleoylphosphatidylglycerol (anionic phospholipid) activates the enzyme, k(cat) linearly increasing with dioleoylphosphatidylglycerol concentration. GT MG517 is shown to be encoded by an essential gene, and the addition of GT inhibitors results in cell growth inhibition. It is proposed that glycolipid synthases are potential targets for drug discovery against infections by mycoplasmas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Glycolipids / biosynthesis
  • Glycolipids / chemistry*
  • Glycolipids / genetics
  • Glycosyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glycosyltransferases / chemistry*
  • Glycosyltransferases / genetics
  • Glycosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mycoplasma Infections / drug therapy
  • Mycoplasma Infections / enzymology
  • Mycoplasma genitalium / enzymology*
  • Mycoplasma genitalium / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Glycolipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Glycosyltransferases