Campylobacter jejuni is the major worldwide cause of bacterial gastroenteritis. C. jejuni possesses an extensive repertoire of carbohydrate structures that decorate both protein and non-protein surface-exposed structures. An N-linked glycosylation system encoded by the pgl gene cluster mediates the synthesis of a rigidly conserved heptasaccharide that is attached to protein substrates or released as free oligosaccharide in the periplasm. Removal of N-glycosylation results in reduced virulence and impeded host cell attachment. Since the N-glycan is conserved, the N-glycosylation system is also an attractive option for glycoengineering recombinant vaccines in Escherichia coli. To determine whether non-canonical N-glycans are present in C. jejuni, we utilized high throughput glycoproteomics to characterize C. jejuni JHH1 and identified 93 glycosylation sites, including 34 not previously reported. Interrogation of these data allowed the identification of a phosphoethanolamine (pEtN)-modified variant of the N-glycan that was attached to multiple proteins. The pEtN moiety was attached to the terminal GalNAc of the canonical N-glycan. Deletion of the pEtN transferase eptC removed all evidence of the pEtN-glycan but did not globally influence protein reactivity to patient sera, whereas deletion of the pglB oligosaccharyltransferase significantly reduced reactivity. Transfer of eptC and the pgl gene cluster to E. coli confirmed the addition of the pEtN-glycan to a target C. jejuni protein. Significantly reduced, yet above background levels of pEtN-glycan were also observed in E. coli not expressing eptC, suggesting that endogenous E. coli pEtN transferases can mediate the addition of pEtN to N-glycans. The addition of pEtN must be considered in the context of glycoengineering and may alter C. jejuni glycan-mediated structure-function interactions.
Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2012, Vol 287, Issue 35, p. 29384-96