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Title: Structure analysis of biologically important prokaryotic glycopolymers
Author: Ventura, Valeria Victoria
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2013
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Of the many post-translational modifications organisms can undertake, glycosylation is the most prevalent and the most diverse. The research in this thesis focuses on the structural characterisation of glycosylation in two classes of glycopolymer (lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and glycoprotein) in two domains of life (bacteria and archaea). The common theme linking these subprojects is the development and application of high sensitivity analytical techniques, primarily mass spectrometry (MS), for studying prokaryotic glycosylation. Many prokaryotes produce glycan arrangements with extraordinary variety in composition and structure. A further challenge is posed by additional functionalities such as lipids whose characterisation is not always straightforward. Glycosylation in prokaryotes has a variety of different biological functions, including their important roles in the mediation of interactions between pathogens and hosts. Thus enhanced knowledge of bacterial glycosylation may be of therapeutic value, whilst a better understanding of archaeal protein glycosylation will provide further targets for industrial applications, as well as insight into this post- translational modification across evolution and protein processing under extreme conditions. The first sub-project focused on the S-layer glycoprotein of the halophilic archeaon Haloferax volcanii, which has been reported to be modified by both glycans and lipids. Glycoproteomic and associated MS technologies were employed to characterise the N- and O-linked glycosylation and to explore putative lipid modifications. Approximately 90% of the S-layer was mapped and N-glycans were identified at all the mapped consensus sites, decorated with a pentasaccharide consisting of two hexoses, two hexuronic acids and a methylated hexuronic acid. The O-glycans are homogeneously identified as a disaccharide consisting of galactose and glucose. Unexpectedly it was found that membrane-derived lipids were present in the S- layer samples despite extensive purification, calling into question the predicted presence of covalently linked lipid. The H. volcanii N-glycosylation is mediated by the products of the agl gene cluster and the functional characterisation of members of the agl gene cluster was investigated by MS analysis of agl-mutant strains of the S-layer. Burkholderia pseudomallei is the causative agent of melioidosis, a serious and often fatal disease in humans which is endemic in South-East Asia and other equatorial regions. Its LPS is vital for serum resistance and the O-antigen repeat structures are of interest as vaccine targets. B. pseudomallei is reported to produce several polysaccharides, amongst which the already characterised 'typical' O-antigen of K96243 represents 97% of the strains. The serologically distinct 'atypical' strain 576 produces a different LPS, whose characterisation is the subject of this research project. MS strategies coupled with various hydrolytic and chemical derivatisation methodologies were employed to define the composition and potential sequences of the O-antigen repeat unit. These MS strategies were complemented by a novel NMR technique involving embedding of the LPS into micelles. Taken together the MS and NMR data have revealed a highly unusual O-antigen structure for atypical LPS which is remarkably different from the typical O-antigen. The development of structural analysis tools in MS and NMR applicable to the illustrated types of glycosylation in these prokaryotes will give a more consistent approach to sugar characterisation and their modifications thus providing more informative results for pathogenicity and immunological studies as well as pathway comparisons.
Supervisor: Haslam, Stuart ; Dell, Anne Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral