A bifunctional UDP-Sugar 4-epimerase supports biosynthesis of multiple cell surface polysaccharides in Sinorhizobium meliloti

Simon Schäper, Heiko Wendt, Jan Bamberger, Volker Sieber, Jochen Schmid, Anke Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Sinorhizobium meliloti produces multiple extracellular glycans, including among others, lipopolysaccharides (LPS), and the exopolysaccharides (EPS) succinoglycan (SG) and galactoglucan (GG). These polysaccharides serve cell protective roles. Furthermore, SG and GG promote the interaction of S. meliloti with its host Medicago sativa in root nodule symbiosis. ExoB has been suggested to be the sole enzyme catalyzing synthesis of UDP-galactose in S. meliloti (A. M. Buendia, B. Enenkel, R. Köplin, K. Niehaus, et al. Mol Microbiol 5:1519–1530, 1991, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2958.1991.tb00799.x). Accordingly, exoBmutants were previously found to be affected in the synthesis of the galactose-containing glycans LPS, SG, and GG and consequently, in symbiosis. Here, we report that the S. meliloti Rm2011 uxs1-uxe-apsS-apsH1-apsE-apsH2 (SMb20458-63) gene cluster directs biosynthesis of an arabinose-containing polysaccharide (APS), which contributes to biofilm formation, and is solely or mainly composed of arabinose. Uxe has previously been identified as UDP-xylose 4-epimerase. Collectively, our data from mutational and overexpression analyses of the APS biosynthesis genes and in vitro enzymatic assays indicate that Uxe functions as UDP-xylose 4- and UDP-glucose 4-epimerase catalyzing UDP-xylose/UDP-arabinose and UDP-glucose/UDP-galactose interconversions, respectively. Overexpression of uxe suppressed the phenotypes of an exoB mutant, evidencing that Uxe can functionally replace ExoB. We suggest that under conditions stimulating expression of the APS biosynthesis operon, Uxe contributes to the synthesis of multiple glycans and thereby to cell protection, biofilm formation, and symbiosis. Furthermore, we show that the C2H2 zinc finger transcriptional regulator MucR counteracts the previously reported CuxR–c-di-GMP-mediated activation of the APS biosynthesis operon. This integrates the c-di-GMP-dependent control of APS production into the opposing regulation of EPS biosynthesis and swimming motility in S. meliloti. IMPORTANCE Bacterial extracellular polysaccharides serve important cell protective, structural, and signaling roles. They have particularly attracted attention as adhesives and matrix components promoting biofilm formation, which significantly contributes to resistance against antibiotics. In the root nodule symbiosis between rhizobia and leguminous plants, extracellular polysaccharides have a signaling function. UDP-sugar 4-epimerases are important enzymes in the synthesis of the activated sugar substrates, which are frequently shared between multiple polysaccharide biosynthesis pathways. Thus, these enzymes are potential targets to interfere with these pathways. Our finding of a bifunctional UDP-sugar 4-epimerase in Sinorhizobium meliloti generally advances the knowledge of substrate promiscuity of such enzymes andspecifically of the biosynthesis of extracellular polysaccharides involved in biofilm formation and symbiosis in this alphaproteobacterium.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00801-18
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Bifunctional UDP-glucose/UDP-xylose 4-epimerase
  • Biofilm formation
  • C-di-GMP
  • ExoB
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti
  • Surface polysaccharide
  • Symbiosis
  • Transcriptional regulation


Dive into the research topics of 'A bifunctional UDP-Sugar 4-epimerase supports biosynthesis of multiple cell surface polysaccharides in Sinorhizobium meliloti'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this