Identification and characterization of the dTDP - rhamnose biosynthesis and transfer genes of the lipopolysaccharide - related rfb locus in Leptospira interrogans serovar copenhageni

Marina Harper (Mitchison), Dieter M Bulach, Tu Vinh, Kumar Rajakumar, Solly Faine, Ben Adler

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Immunity to leptospirosis is principally humorally mediated and involves opsonization of leptospires for phagocytosis by macrophages and neutrophils. The only protective antigen identified to date is the leptospiral lipopolysaccharide (LPS) which biochemically resembles typical gram-negative LPS but has greatly reduced endotoxic activity. Little is known about the structure of leptospiral LPS. A 2.1-kb EcoRI fragment from the chromosome of serovar Copenhageni was cloned in pUC18 in Escherichia coli, after which flanking regions were cloned from a genomic library constructed in bacteriophage λ GEM12. Sequence analysis identified four open reading frames which showed similarity to the rfbC, rfbD, rfbB, and rfbA genes, transcribed in that order, which encode the four enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of dTDP-rhamnose for the assembly of LPS in Salmonella enterica, E. coli, and Shigella flexneri. An additional open reading frame downstream of the rfbCDBA locus showed similarity with the rhamnosyltransferase genes of Shigella and Yersinia enterocolitica but not Salmonella. Comparison of deduced amino acid sequences showed up to 85% similarity of the leptospiral proteins with those of other gram-negative bacteria. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of recombinant clones identified the putative RfbCDBA proteins, while reverse transcriptase-mediated PCR analysis indicated that the rfbCDBA gene cluster was expressed in Leptospira. Moreover, it could restore normal LPS phenotype to a defined rfbB::Tn5 mutant of S. flexneri which was deficient in all four genes, thereby, confirming the functional identification of a part of the leptospiral rfb locus.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1262 - 1267
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997

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