Sweet Talk: Protein Glycosylation in Bacterial Interaction With the Host

Trends Microbiol. 2015 Oct;23(10):630-641. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2015.07.003.


Pathogenic bacteria encode virulent glycosyltransferases that conjugate various glycans onto substrate proteins via the N- or O-linkage. The HMW system in nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae and the Pgl system in Campylobacter jejuni glycosylate bacterial surface or periplasmic proteins at the eukaryotic-like Asn-X-Ser/Thr motif. The NleB effector from enterobacteria mediates arginine GlcNAcylation of host death-domain proteins to block inflammation, representing an atypical N-glycosylation. The large clostridial cytotoxins and related glucosyltransferase toxins from Legionella and Photorhabdus monoglycosylate a serine/threonine or tyrosine in host Rho GTPase or elongation factor 1A (eEF1A). The emerging bacterial autotransporter heptosyltransferase (BAHT) family of heptosyltransferases also catalyses O-glycosylation and modifies autotransporters for adhesion to the host. These glycosylations, diverse in linkages and glycan structures, determine appropriate functioning of bacterial virulence factors or hijack host cellular processes in pathogenesis.

Keywords: arginine GlcNAcylation; autotransporters; bacterial adhesion; heptosylation; inflammatory responses; protein glycosylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion / physiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Glycosylation
  • Glycosyltransferases / genetics
  • Glycosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Humans


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Glycosyltransferases