Identifying the targets and functions of N-linked protein glycosylation in Campylobacter jejuni
Campylobacter jejuni is a major cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in humans that is primarily associated with the consumption of inadequately prepared poultry products, since the organism is generally thought to be asymptomatic in avian species. Unlike many other microorganisms, C. jejuni is capable of performing extensive post-translational modification (PTM) of proteins by N- and O-linked glycosylation, both of which are required for optimal chicken colonization and human virulence. The biosynthesis and attachment of N-glycans to C. jejuni proteins is encoded by the pgl (protein glycosylation) locus, with the PglB oligosaccharyltransferase (OST) enabling en bloc transfer of a heptasaccharide N-glycan from a lipid carrier in the inner membrane to proteins exposed within the periplasm. Seventy-eight C. jejuni glycoproteins (represented by 134 sites of experimentally verified N-glycosylation) have now been identified, and include inner and outer membrane proteins, periplasmic proteins and lipoproteins, which are generally of poorly defined or unknown function. Despite our extensive knowledge of the targets of this apparently widespread process, we still do not fully understand the role N-glycosylation plays biologically, although several phenotypes, including wild-type stress resistance, biofilm formation, motility and chemotaxis have been related to a functional pgl system. Recent work has described enzymatic processes (nitrate reductase NapAB) and antibiotic efflux (CmeABC) as major targets requiring N-glycan attachment for optimal function, and experimental evidence also points to roles in cell binding via glycan–glycan interactions, protein complex formation and protein stability by conferring protection against host and bacterial proteolytic activity. Here we examine the biochemistry of the N-linked glycosylation system, define its currently known protein targets and discuss evidence for the structural and functional roles of this PTM in individual proteins and globally in C. jejuni pathogenesis.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Glycomics & Glycoproteomics: From Analytics to Function