KL55, KL74, and KL85 capsular polysaccharide (CPS) biosynthesis loci in Acinetobacter baumannii BAL_204, BAL_309, and LUH5543 genomes, respectively, are related and each contains genes for l-Rhap and d-GlcpA synthesis. The CPSs were isolated and studied by sugar analysis, Smith degradation, and 1H and 13C NMR spectroscopy. The K55 and K74 CPSs are built up of branched octasaccharide repeats (K units) containing one residue each of d-GlcpA and d-GlcpNAc and six residues of l-Rhap. The K55 unit differs from the K74 unit in the linkage between D-GlcpA and an l-Rhap residue in the K unit (1 → 3 versus 1 → 2) and linkage between K units. However, most K units in the isolated K74 CPS were modified by β-elimination of a side-chain α-l-Rhap-(1 → 3)-α-l-Rhap disaccharide from position 4 of GlcA to give 4-deoxy-l-threo-hex-4-enuronic acid (1:~3 ratio of intact and modified units). The K85 CPS has a branched heptasaccharide K unit similar to the K74 unit but with one fewer α-l-Rhap residue in the side chain. In contrast to previous findings on A. baumannii CPSs, each K locus includes fewer glycosyltransferase (Gtr) genes than the number required to form all linkages in the K units. Hence, one Gtr appears to be multifunctional catalysing formation of two 1 → 2 and one 1 → 3 linkages between the l-Rha residues.
Keywords: Acinetobacter baumannii; Capsular polysaccharide structure; Capsule biosynthesis; K locus; Rhamnosyltransferase; β-Elimination.
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