Discovery of an RmlC/D fusion protein in the microalga Prymnesium parvum and its implications for NDP-β-L-rhamnose biosynthesis in microalgae

Ben Wagstaff, Martin Rejzek, Sakonwan Kuhaudomlarp, Lionel Hill, Ilaria Mascia, Sergey A. Nepogodiev, Helge Dorfmueller, Robert A. Field (Lead / Corresponding author)

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10 Citations (Scopus)
226 Downloads (Pure)


The 6-deoxy sugar L-rhamnose (L-Rha) is found widely in plant and microbial polysaccharides and natural products. The importance of this and related compounds in host–pathogen interactions often means that L-Rha plays an essential role in many organisms. L-Rha is most commonly biosynthesized as the activated sugar-nucleotide uridine 5’-diphospho-β-L-rhamnose (UDP-β-L-Rha) or thymidine 5’-diphospho-β-L-rhamnose (TDP-β-L-Rha). Enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of these sugar nucleotides have been studied in some detail in bacteria and plants, but the activated form of L-Rha and the corresponding biosynthetic enzymes have yet to be explored in algae. Here, using sugar-nucleotide profiling in two representative algae, Euglena gracilis and the toxin-producing microalga Prymnesium parvum, we show that levels of UDP- and TDP-activated L-Rha differ significantly between these two algal species. Using bioinformatics and biochemical methods, we identified and characterized a fusion of the RmlC and RmlD proteins, two bacteria-like enzymes involved in TDP-β-L-Rha biosynthesis, from P. parvum. Using this new sequence and also others, we explored L-Rha biosynthesis among algae, finding that although most algae contain sequences orthologous to plant-like L-Rha biosynthesis machineries, instances of the RmlC–RmlD fusion protein identified here exist across the Haptophyta and Gymnodiniaceae families of microalgae. On the basis of these findings, we propose potential routes for the evolution of nucleoside diphosphate β-L-Rha (NDP-β-L-Rha) pathways among algae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9172-9185
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number23
Early online date22 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2019


  • algae
  • Prymnesium parvum
  • rhamnose
  • sugar nucleotides
  • carbohydrate biosynthesis
  • bioinformatics
  • carbohydrate processing
  • enzyme, glycobiology
  • pathway evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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