Regulation of the lipopolysaccharide-specific sialyltransferase activity of gonococci by the growth state of the bacteria, but not by carbon source, catabolite repression or oxygen supply

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The enzyme sialyltransferase (STase) of Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a major pathogenicitiy determinant. Using a refined method for assaying the STase activity, the Km for CMP-NANA was shown to be 14 +/− 2 μM, higher than that reported previously. Rates of sialylation by Nonidet extracts, prepared under conditions that optimise solubilisation of the membrane-bound enzyme, were 6 to 20 nmol of NANA transferred from CMP-14C-NANA onto isolated lipopolysaccharide/min./mg of extracted protein, far higher than the previously reported rates of less than 1 nmol of NANA transferred/min./mg of extracted protein. Gonococci grew more slowly with lactate or pyruvate than with glucose as the carbon source. Although growth with a mixture of limiting concentrations of both glucose and lactate was biphasic, diauxic growth was also found in the control culture supplied with glucose alone. The growth rate in the presence of lactate alone was slower than with glucose. The growth rate increased slightly relative to the glucose culture when both substrates were available; lactate was consumed more rapidly than glucose. Higher STase activities were found in bacteria harvested in the exponential than in the stationary phase of aerobic growth: the activity in aerated cultures was higher than those of oxygen-limited or anaerobic cultures. Similar STase activities were found in bacteria that had been grown with glucose, lactate or pyruvate as the carbon and energy source. Sialyltransferase synthesis is essentially constitutive: it is not regulated by glucose repression or by induction by lactate or anaerobiosis.

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