Group A carbohydrate (GAC) is a bacterial peptidoglycan-anchored surface rhamnose polysaccharide (RhaPS) that is essential for growth of Streptococcus pyogenes and contributes to its ability to infect the human host. In this study, using molecular and synthetic biology approaches, biochemistry, radiolabeling techniques, and NMR and MS analyses, we examined the role of GacB, encoded in the S. pyogenes GAC gene cluster, in the GAC biosynthesis pathway. We demonstrate that GacB is the first characterized α-D-GlcNAc-β-1,4-L-rhamnosyltransferase that synthesizes the committed step in the biosynthesis of the GAC virulence determinant. Importantly, the substitution of S. pyogenes gacB with the homologous gene from Streptococcus agalactiae (Group B Streptococcus), Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus (Group C Streptococcus), Streptococcus dysgalactiae subsp. equisimilis (Group G Streptococcus), or Streptococcus mutans complemented the GAC biosynthesis pathway. These results, combined with those from extensive in silico studies, reveal a common phylogenetic origin of the genes required for this priming step in >40 pathogenic species of the Streptococcus genus, including members from the Lancefield Groups B, C, D, E, G, and H. Importantly, this priming step appears to be unique to streptococcal ABC transporter– dependent RhaPS biosynthesis, whereas the Wzx/Wzy-dependent streptococcal capsular polysaccharide pathways instead require an α-D-Glc-β-1,4-L-rhamnosyltransferase. The insights into the RhaPS priming step obtained here open the door to targeting the early steps of the group carbohydrate biosynthesis pathways in species of the Streptococcus genus of high clinical and veterinary importance.
- carbohydrate biosynthesis
- group A carbohydrate (GAC)
- bacterial genetics
- nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)
- Streptococcus pyogenes (S. pyogenes)