Identification of a Direct Biosynthetic Pathway for UDP- N-Acetylgalactosamine from Glucosamine-6-Phosphate in Thermophilic Crenarchaeon Sulfolobus tokodaii

J Bacteriol. 2018 Apr 24;200(10):e00048-18. doi: 10.1128/JB.00048-18. Print 2018 May 15.


Most organisms, from Bacteria to Eukarya, synthesize UDP-N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) from fructose-6-phosphate via a four-step reaction, and UDP-N-acetylgalactosamine (UDP-GalNAc) can only be synthesized from UDP-GlcNAc by UDP-GlcNAc 4-epimerase. In Archaea, the bacterial-type UDP-GlcNAc biosynthetic pathway was reported for Methanococcales. However, the complete biosynthetic pathways for UDP-GlcNAc and UDP-GalNAc present in one archaeal species are unidentified. Previous experimental analyses on enzymatic activities of the ST0452 protein, identified from the thermophilic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus tokodaii, predicted the presence of both a bacterial-type UDP-GlcNAc and an independent UDP-GalNAc biosynthetic pathway in this archaeon. In the present work, functional analyses revealed that the recombinant ST2186 protein possessed an glutamine:fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase activity and that the recombinant ST0242 protein possessed a phosphoglucosamine-mutase activity. Along with the acetyltransferase and uridyltransferase activities of the ST0452 protein, the activities of the ST2186 and ST0242 proteins confirmed the presence of a bacterial-type UDP-GlcNAc biosynthetic pathway in S. tokodaii In contrast, the UDP-GlcNAc 4-epimerase homologue gene was not detected within the genomic data. Thus, it was expected that galactosamine-1-phosphate or galactosamine-6-phosphate (GalN-6-P) was provided by conversion of glucosamine-1-phosphate or glucosamine-6-phosphate (GlcN-6-P). A novel epimerase converting GlcN-6-P to GalN-6-P was detected in a cell extract of S. tokodaii, and the N-terminal sequence of the purified protein indicated that the novel epimerase was encoded by the ST2245 gene. Along with the ST0242 phosphogalactosamine-mutase activity, this observation confirmed the presence of a novel UDP-GalNAc biosynthetic pathway from GlcN-6-P in S. tokodaii Discovery of the novel pathway provides a new insight into the evolution of nucleotide sugar metabolic pathways.IMPORTANCE In this work, a novel protein capable of directly converting glucosamine-6-phosphate to galactosamine-6-phosphate was successfully purified from a cell extract of the thermophilic crenarchaeon Sulfolobus tokodaii Confirmation of this novel activity using the recombinant protein indicates that S. tokodaii possesses a novel UDP-GalNAc biosynthetic pathway derived from glucosamine-6-phosphate. The distributions of this and related genes indicate the presence of three different types of UDP-GalNAc biosynthetic pathways: a direct pathway using a novel enzyme and two conversion pathways from UDP-GlcNAc using known enzymes. Additionally, Crenarchaeota species lacking all three pathways were found, predicting the presence of one more unknown pathway. Identification of these novel proteins and pathways provides important insights into the evolution of nucleotide sugar biosynthesis, as well as being potentially important industrially.

Keywords: GlcN-6-phosphate/GalN-6-phosphate epimerase; Sulfolobus tokodaii; UDP-GalNAc; UDP-GalNAc biosynthetic pathway; UDP-GlcNAc; evolution; glutamine:fructose-6-phosphate amidotransferase; pathway-bridging enzyme; phosphogalactosamine-mutase; phosphoglucosamine-mutase; thermostable enzymes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylgalactosamine / biosynthesis*
  • Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Archaeal Proteins / genetics
  • Archaeal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Galactosamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Galactosamine / metabolism
  • Glucosamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Glucosamine / metabolism
  • Glucose-6-Phosphate / analogs & derivatives
  • Glucose-6-Phosphate / metabolism
  • Glucosephosphates / metabolism
  • Glutamine-Fructose-6-Phosphate Transaminase (Isomerizing) / genetics
  • Glutamine-Fructose-6-Phosphate Transaminase (Isomerizing) / metabolism*
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Phosphoglucomutase / genetics
  • Phosphoglucomutase / metabolism*
  • Sulfolobus / enzymology*
  • Sulfolobus / genetics
  • Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylglucosamine / biosynthesis*


  • Archaeal Proteins
  • Glucosephosphates
  • Phosphates
  • glucosamine 1-phosphate
  • glucosamine 6-phosphate
  • Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylglucosamine
  • Glucose-6-Phosphate
  • galactose-2-amino-6-phosphate
  • Galactosamine
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Glutamine-Fructose-6-Phosphate Transaminase (Isomerizing)
  • phosphoglucosamine mutase
  • Phosphoglucomutase
  • Acetylgalactosamine
  • Glucosamine