Bacterial chemotaxis towards polysaccharide pectin by pectin-binding protein

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As opposed to typical bacteria exhibiting chemotaxis towards low-molecular-weight substances, such as amino acids and mono/oligosaccharides, gram-negative Sphingomonas sp. strain A1 shows chemotaxis towards alginate and pectin polysaccharides. To identify the mechanism of chemotaxis towards macromolecules, a genomic fragment was isolated from the wild-type strain A1 through complementation with the mutant strain A1-M5 lacking chemotaxis towards pectin. This fragment contained several genes including sph1118. Through whole-genome sequencing of strain A1-M5, sph1118 was found to harbour a mutation. In fact, sph1118 disruptant lost chemotaxis towards pectin, and this deficiency was recovered by complementation with wild-type sph1118. Interestingly, the gene disruptant also exhibited decreased pectin assimilation. Furthermore, the gene product SPH1118 was expressed in recombinant E. coli cells, purified and characterised. Differential scanning fluorimetry and UV absorption spectroscopy revealed that SPH1118 specifically binds to pectin with a dissociation constant of 8.5 μM. Using binding assay and primary structure analysis, SPH1118 was predicted to be a periplasmic pectin-binding protein associated with an ATP-binding cassette transporter. This is the first report on the identification and characterisation of a protein triggering chemotaxis towards the macromolecule pectin as well as its assimilation.

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