Glycosylation of bacterial proteins is an important process for bacterial physiology and pathophysiology. Both O- and N-linked glycan moieties have been identified in bacterial glycoproteins. The N-linked glycosylation pathways are well established in Gram-negative bacteria. However, the O-linked glycosylation pathways are not well defined due to the complex nature of known O-linked glycoproteins in bacteria. In this review, we examine a new family of serine-rich O-linked glycoproteins which are represented by fimbriae-associated adhesin Fap1 of Streptococcus parasanguinis and human platelet-binding protein GspB of Streptococcus gordonii. This family of glycoproteins is conserved in streptococcal and staphylococcal species. A gene cluster coding for glycosyltransferases and accessory Sec proteins has been implicated in the protein glycosylation. A two-step glycosylation model is proposed. Two glycosyltransferases interact with each other and catalyse the first step of the protein glycosylation in the cytoplasm; the cross-talk between glycosylation-associated proteins and accessory Sec components mediates the second step of the protein glycosylation, an emerging mechanism for bacterial Olinked protein glycosylation. Dissecting the molecular mechanism of this conserved biosynthetic pathway offers opportunities to develop new therapeutic strategies targeting this previously unrecognized pathway, as serine-rich glycoproteins have been shown to play a role in bacterial pathogenesis.
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