PolyGlcNAc-containing exopolymers enable surface penetration by non-motile Enterococcus faecalis


Ramos Y, Rocha J, Hael AL, van Gestel J, Vlamakis H, Cywes-Bentley C, Cubillos-Ruiz JR, Pier GB, Gilmore MS, Kolter R, Morales DK. PolyGlcNAc-containing exopolymers enable surface penetration by non-motile Enterococcus faecalis. PLoS Pathog 2019;15(2):e1007571.

Date Published:

2019 Feb


Bacterial pathogens have evolved strategies that enable them to invade tissues and spread within the host. Enterococcus faecalis is a leading cause of local and disseminated multidrug-resistant hospital infections, but the molecular mechanisms used by this non-motile bacterium to penetrate surfaces and translocate through tissues remain largely unexplored. Here we present experimental evidence indicating that E. faecalis generates exopolysaccharides containing β-1,6-linked poly-N-acetylglucosamine (polyGlcNAc) as a mechanism to successfully penetrate semisolid surfaces and translocate through human epithelial cell monolayers. Genetic screening and molecular analyses of mutant strains identified glnA, rpiA and epaX as genes critically required for optimal E. faecalis penetration and translocation. Mechanistically, GlnA and RpiA cooperated to generate uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) that was utilized by EpaX to synthesize polyGlcNAc-containing polymers. Notably, exogenous supplementation with polymeric N-acetylglucosamine (PNAG) restored surface penetration by E. faecalis mutants devoid of EpaX. Our study uncovers an unexpected mechanism whereby the RpiA-GlnA-EpaX metabolic axis enables production of polyGlcNAc-containing polysaccharides that endow E. faecalis with the ability to penetrate surfaces. Hence, targeting carbohydrate metabolism or inhibiting biosynthesis of polyGlcNAc-containing exopolymers may represent a new strategy to more effectively confront enterococcal infections in the clinic.

Last updated on 03/01/2019