Glycoengineering of host mimicking type-2 LacNAc polymers and Lewis X antigens on bacterial cell surfaces


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Bacterial carbohydrate structures play a central role in mediating a variety of host–pathogen interactions. Glycans can either elicit protective immune response or lead to escape of immune surveillance by mimicking host structures. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a major component on the surface of Gram-negative bacteria, is composed of a lipid A-core and the O-antigen polysaccharide. Pathogens like Neisseria meningitidis expose a lipooligosaccharide (LOS), which outermost glycans mimick mammalian epitopes to avoid immune recognition. Lewis X (Galβ1–4(Fucα1–3)GlcNAc) antigens of Helicobacter pylori or of the helminth Schistosoma mansoni modulate the immune response by interacting with receptors on human dendritic cells. In a glycoengineering approach we generate human carbohydrate structures on the surface of recombinant Gram-negative bacteria, such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica sv. Typhimurium that lack O-antigen. A ubiquitous building block in mammalian N-linked protein glycans is Galβ1-4GlcNAc, referred to as a type-2 N-acetyllactosamine, LacNAc, sequence. Strains displaying polymeric LacNAc were generated by introducing a combination of glycosyltransferases that act on modified lipid A-cores, resulting in efficient expression of the carbohydrate epitope on bacterial cell surfaces. The poly-LacNAc scaffold was used as an acceptor for fucosylation leading to polymers of Lewis X antigens. We analysed the distribution of the carbohydrate epitopes by FACS, microscopy and ELISA and confirmed engineered LOS containing LacNAc and Lewis X repeats by MALDI-TOF and NMR analysis. Glycoengineered LOS induced pro-inflammatory response in murine dendritic cells. These bacterial strains can thus serve as tools to analyse the role of defined carbohydrate structures in different biological processes.