Functional and structural Glycobiology on virulence factor biogenesis

The cell wall of Gram-positive bacteria consists of an intricate network of proteins, peptidoglycan, and secondary cell wall structures (SCWS) that are covalently linked to the peptidoglycan. Teichoic or teichuronic acids are typical and well-studied SCWS in Gram-positive bacteria and play an important role in normal cell function and infection. Interestingly, many β-hemolytic streptococcal species appear to lack expression of typical teichoic or teichuronic acid structures and instead express a rhamnose-rich polysaccharide, which comprises approximately half of the cell wall by weight. Historically, expression of these evolutionary conserved glycans underlies classification of β-hemolytic streptococci in Lancefield groups (A, B, C, G…), a feature that is still made use of and applied in contemporary rapid test kits to diagnose and classify streptococcal infections.

The current research focus is on the biosynthesis pathway of the essential sugar nucleotide dTDP-rhamnose. Combinations of methods are applied to conduct functional and structural studies on the enzymes of the dTDP-rhamnose biosynthesis pathway.

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