Unexpected diversity of Escherichia coli sialate O-acetyl esterase NanS

Ariel Rangel, Susan M. Steenbergen, Eric R. Vimr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sialic acids (N-acylneuraminates) are a group of nine-carbon keto-sugars existing mainly as terminal residues on animal glycoprotein and glycolipid carbohydrate chains. Bacterial commensals and pathogens exploit host sialic acids for nutrition, adhesion, or antirecognition, where N-acetyl- or N-glycolylneuraminic acids are the two predominant chemical forms of sialic acids. Each form may be modified by acetyl esters at carbon position 4, 7, 8, or 9 and by a variety of less-common modifications. Modified sialic acids produce challenges for colonizing bacteria, because the chemical alterations to N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) confer increased resistance to sialidase and aldolase activities essential for the catabolism of host sialic acids. Bacteria with O-acetyl sialate esterase(s) utilize acetylated sialic acids for growth, thereby gaining a presumed metabolic advantage over competitors lacking this activity. Here, we demonstrate the esterase activity of Escherichia coli NanS after purifying it as a C-terminal HaloTag fusion. Using a similar approach, we show that E. coli strain O157:H7 Stx prophage or prophage remnants invariably include paralogs of nanS often located downstream of the Shiga-like toxin genes. These paralogs may include sequences encoding N- or C-terminal domains of unknown function where the NanS domains can act as sialate O-acetyl esterases, as shown by complementation of an E. coli strain K-12 nanS mutant and the unimpaired growth of an E. coli O157 nanS mutant on Oacetylated sialic acid. We further demonstrate that nanS homologs in Streptococcus spp. also encode active esterase, demonstrating an unexpected diversity of bacterial sialate O-acetyl esterase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2803-2809
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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