The probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri 121 produces a complex, branched (1 → 4, 1 → 6)-α-D-glucan as extracellular polysaccharide (reuteran) from sucrose (Suc), using a single glucansucrase/glucosyltransferase (GTFA) enzyme (reuteransucrase). To gain insight into the reaction/product specificity of the GTFA enzyme and the mechanism of reuteran formation, incubations with Suc and/or a series of malto-oligosaccharides (MOSs) (degree of polymerization (DP2-DP6)) were followed in time. The structures of the initially formed products, isolated via high-performance anion-exchange chromatography, were analyzed by matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry and 1D/2D (1)H/(13)C NMR spectroscopy. Incubations with Suc only, acting as both donor and acceptor, resulted in elongation of Suc with glucose (Glc) units via alternating (α1 → 4) and (α1 → 6) linkages, yielding linear gluco-oligosaccharides up to at least DP ~ 12. Simultaneously with the ensemble of oligosaccharides, polymeric material was formed early on, suggesting that alternan fragments longer than DP ~ 12 have higher affinity with the GTFA enzyme and are quickly extended, yielding high-molecular-mass branched reuteran (4 × 10(7) Da). MOSs (DP2-DP6) in the absence of Suc turned out to be poor substrates. Incubations of GTFA with Suc plus MOSs as substrates resulted in preferential elongation of MOSs (acceptors) with Glc units from Suc (donor). This apparently reflects the higher affinity of GTFA for MOSs compared with Suc. In accordance with the GTFA specificity, most prominent products were oligosaccharides with an (α1 → 4)/(α1 → 6) alternating structure.
Keywords: Lactobacillus reuteri; glucanotransferase; glucansucrase; structural analysis; α-d-glucans.