Biosynthetic specificity of the rhamnosyltransferase gene of Mycobacterium avium serovar 2 as determined by allelic exchange mutagenesis

Joel N. Maslow, Vida R. Irani, Sun Hwa Lee, Torsten M. Eckstein, Julia M. Inamine, John T. Belisle

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22 Scopus citations


In prior studies, through recombinant expression in Mycobacterium smegmatis, the rtfA gene of Mycobacterium avium was shown to encode a rhamnosyltransferase that catalyses the addition of rhamnose (Rha) to the 6-deoxytalose of serovar 2-specific glycopeptidolipid (GPL). Whether RtfA also catalyses the transfer of Rha to the alaninol of the lipopeptide core is unknown. An isogenic rtfA mutant of M. avium serovar 2 strain TMC724 was derived using a novel allelic exchange mutagenesis system utilizing a multicopy plasmid that contained the katG gene of Mycobacterium bovis and the gene encoding green fluorescent protein (gfp). Overexpression of KatG in M. avium resulted in increased susceptibility to isoniazid, thus providing counter-selection by enriching for clones that had lost plasmid DNA. Plasmid loss was confirmed by screening for gfp-negative clones to select putative allelic exchange mutants. Two exchange mutants were created, confirmed by Southern hybridization, and demonstrated loss of serovar 2-specific GPL by thin-layer chromatography (TLC). Gas chromatography of alditol acetate derivatives revealed the loss of Rha and the terminal 2,3-O-Me-fucose and preservation of 3-O-Me-Rha and 3,4-O-Me-Rha substituents at the terminal alaninol of the lipopeptide core. Complementation of rtfA in trans through an integrative plasmid restored serovar 2-specific GPL expression identical to wild-type TMC724. This result shows that rtfA encodes an enzyme responsible only for the transfer of Rha to the serovar 2-specific oligosaccharide and provides a system of allelic exchange for M. avium as a tool for future genetic studies involving this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3193-3202
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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