Direction of Chain Growth in Polysaccharide Synthesis

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Science  22 Dec 1967:
Vol. 158, Issue 3808, pp. 1536-1542
DOI: 10.1126/science.158.3808.1536


The biosynthesis of a bacterial polysaccharide—the surface O-antigen of Salmonella newington—differs in several respects from the more classical example of glycogen synthesis. Sugars are not transferred directly to the antigen from sugar nucleotide precursors but are transferred first into lipid-linked oligosaccharides. Growth of the polysaccharide chain then occurs by assembly of these lipid-linked precursors at the reducing end of the polymer rather than at its nonreducing end as in glycogen. This method of assembly, in which nascent chains are transferred to the next subunit, is analogous to the growth of proteins or fatty acids. It seems possible that these differences reflect the more complex requirements of a surface polysaccharide synthesized by membrane-bound enzymes. If this is the case, then several other polysaccharide systems may be synthesized by comparable mechanisms.