Making It Easier to Investigate PGTs


Studying cellular molecules can be challenging. Some processes are troublesome to study due to the lack of an assay or a complicated assay exists but lacks sensitivity. Membrane proteins in particular are difficult to isolate and characterize. Phosphoglycosyltransferases (PGTs) are transmembrane proteins that transfer phosphosugars onto phospholipids, initiating the synthesis of oligosaccharides in bacterial cell walls. This transfer creates a diphosphate link between a lipid and a sugar and generates UMP as a byproduct. Once this lipid–P–P–sugar linkage occurs, more sugars can be added by glycosyltransferases, generating membrane-based polysaccharides (e.g., peptidoglycan) used for signaling, recognition and defense.

While PGTs have been studied biochemically and an X-ray structure of one member exists, much is still unknown about these enzymes. Overexpressing and purifying membrane proteins remains a challenge, and the conventional PGT assay requires isotope labeled-UDP-sugar donors and is based on the solubility difference between substrate and product to determine enzyme turnover using extraction-based or chromatographic methods. While there are other assays that use fluorescent modified substrates or multienzyme analysis, none of the methods can be applied to all of the diverse PGT enzymes.

All PGTs generate UMP as a byproduct of the transfer of a phosphosugar to a phospholipid. Based on the principle of the luminescent UDP-Glo™ Glycosyltransferase Assay where UDP released during the glycosyltransferase reaction was quantitated, a new luminescent assay called UMP-Glo™ Assay is able to measure the activity of PGT enzymes by adding a single reagent to detect UMP. Das et al. validated this assay by testing PglC, a PGT from Campylobacter jejuni, as well as PglC from Helicobacter pullorum and WecA from Thermatoga maritime and published the results in Scientific Reports. Continue reading “Making It Easier to Investigate PGTs”