Mannosylglycerate: structural analysis of biosynthesis and evolutionary history

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Halophilic and halotolerant microorganisms adapted to thrive in hot environments accumulate compatible solutes that usually have a negative charge either associated with a carboxylic group or a phosphodiester unit. Mannosylglycerate (MG) has been detected in several members of (hyper)thermophilic bacteria and archaea, in which it responds primarily to osmotic stress. The outstanding ability of MG to stabilize protein structure in vitro as well as in vivo has been convincingly demonstrated. These findings led to an increasingly supported link between MG and microbial adaptation to high temperature. However, the accumulation of MG in many red algae has been known for a long time, and the peculiar distribution of MG in such distant lineages was intriguing. Knowledge on the biosynthetic machinery together with the rapid expansion of genome databases allowed for structural and phylogenetic analyses and provided insight into the distribution of MG. The two pathways for MG synthesis have distinct evolutionary histories and physiological roles: in red algae MG is synthesised exclusively via the single-step pathway and most probably is unrelated with stress protection. In contrast, the two-step pathway is strongly associated with osmoadaptation in (hyper)thermophilic prokaryotes. The phylogenetic analysis of the two-step pathway also reveals a second cluster composed of fungi and mesophilic bacteria, but MG has not been demonstrated in members of this cluster; we propose that the synthase is part of a more complex pathway directed at the synthesis of yet unknown molecules containing the mannosyl-glyceryl unit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)835-852
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014


  • (Hyper)thermophiles
  • Biosynthetic pathways
  • Compatible solutes
  • Digeneaside
  • Evolutionary history
  • Glycosyltransferases
  • Mannosylglycerate


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