Sialic acids are one of the most important carbohydrate classes in biology. Some bacterial pathogens can scavenge sialic acids from their surrounding environment and degrade them as a source of carbon, nitrogen and energy. This sequestration and subsequent catabolism of sialic acid require a cluster of genes known as the `Nan-Nag' cluster. The enzymes coded by these genes are important for pathogen colonization and persistence. Importantly, the Nan-Nag genes have proven to be essential for Staphylococcus aureus growth on sialic acids, suggesting that the pathway is a viable antibiotic drug target. The enzyme N-acetylmannosamine-6-phosphate 2-epimerase is involved in the catabolism of sialic acid; specifically, the enzyme converts N-acetylmannosamine-6-phosphate into N-acetylglucosamine-6-phosphate. The gene was cloned into an appropriate expression vector, and recombinant protein was expressed in Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3) cells and purified via a three-step procedure. Purified N-acetylmannosamine-6-phosphate 2-epimerase was screened for crystallization. The best crystal diffracted to a resolution of beyond 1.84 Å in space group P21212. Understanding the structural nature of this enzyme from methicillin-resistant S. aureus will provide us with the insights necessary for the development of future antibiotics.
Keywords: MRSA; N-acetylmannosamine-6-phosphate 2-epimerase; NanE; Staphylococcus aureus; sialic acid catabolism.