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Microbacterium nematophilum causes a deleterious infection of the C. elegans hindgut initiated by adhesion to rectal and anal cuticle. C. elegans bus-2 mutants, which are resistant to M. nematophilum and also to the formation of surface biofilms by Yersinia sp., carry genetic lesions in a putative glycosyltransferase containing conserved domains of core-1 beta1,3-galactosyltransferases. bus-2 is predicted to act in the synthesis of core-1 type O-glycans. This observation implies that the infection requires the presence of host core-1 O-glycoconjugates and is therefore carbohydrate-dependent. Chemical analysis reported here reveals that bus-2 is indeed deficient in core-1 O-glycans. These mutants also exhibit a new subclass of O-glycans whose structures were determined by high performance tandem mass spectrometry; these are highly fucosylated and have a novel core that contains internally linked GlcA. Lectin studies showed that core-1 glycans and this novel class of O-glycans are both expressed in the tissue that is infected in the wild type worms. In worms having the bus-2 genetic background, core-1 glycans are decreased, whereas the novel fucosyl O-glycans are increased in abundance in this region. Expression analysis using a red fluorescent protein marker showed that bus-2 is expressed in the posterior gut, cuticle seam cells, and spermatheca, the first two of which are likely to be involved in secreting the carbohydrate-rich surface coat of the cuticle. Therefore, in the bus-2 background of reduced core-1 O-glycans, the novel fucosyl glycans likely replace or mask remaining core-1 ligands, leading to the resistance phenotype. There are more than 35 Microbacterium species, some of which are pathogenic in man. This study is the first to analyze the biochemistry of adhesion to a host tissue by a Microbacterium species.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





17662 - 17672


Animals, Bacterial Adhesion, Biofilms, Caenorhabditis elegans, Carbohydrates, Drug Resistance, Bacterial, Glycoproteins, Ligands, Luminescent Proteins, Mass Spectrometry, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutation, Oligosaccharides, Polysaccharides, Tandem Mass Spectrometry