Homology among Escherichia coli K1 and K92 polysialyltransferases

E. R. Vimr, R. Bergstrom, S. M. Steenbergen, G. Boulnois, I. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


The neuS-encoded polysialyltransferase (polyST) in Escherichia coli K1 catalyzes synthesis of polysialic acid homopolymers composed of unbranched sialyl α2,8 linkages. Subcloning and complementation experiments showed that the K1 neuS was functionally interchangeable with the neuS from E. coli K92 (S. M. Steenbergen, T. J. Wrona, and E. R. Vimr, J. Bacteriol. 174:1099-1108, 1992), which synthesizes polysialic acid capsules with alternating sialyl α2,8-2,9 linkages. To better understand the relationship between these polySTs, the complete K92 neuS sequence was determined. The results demonstrated that K1 and K92 neuS genes are homologous and indicated that the K92 copy may have evolved from its K1 homolog. Both K1 and K92 structural genes comprised 1,227 bp. There were 156 (12.7%) differences between the two sequences; among these mutations, 55 did not affect the derived primary structure of K92 polyST and hence were synonymous with the K1 sequence. Assuming maximum parsimony, another estimated 17 synonymous mutations plus 84 nonsynonymous mutations could account for the 70 amino acid replacements in K92 polyST; 36 of these replacements were judged to be conservative when compared with those of K1 polyST. There were no changes detected in the first 146 5' or last 129 3' bp of either gene, suggesting, in addition to the observed mutational differences, the possibility of a past recombination event between neuS loci of two different kps clusters. The results indicate that relatively few amino acid changes can account for the evolution of a glycosyltransferase with novel linkage specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5127-5131
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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