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    Nonulosonic acids (NulOs) are a diverse family of 9-carbon α-keto acid sugars that are involved in a wide range of functions across all branches of life. The family of NulOs includes the sialic acids as well as the prokaryote-specific NulOs. Select bacteria biosynthesize the sialic acid N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac), and the ability to produce this sugar and its subsequent incorporation into cell-surface structures is implicated in a variety of bacteria-host interactions. Furthermore, scavenging of sialic acid from the environment for energy has been characterized across a diverse group of bacteria, mainly human commensals and pathogens. In addition to sialic acid, bacteria have the ability to biosynthesize prokaryote-specific NulOs, of which there are several known isomers characterized. These prokaryotic NulOs are similar in structure to Neu5Ac but little is known regarding their role in bacterial physiology. Here, we discuss the diversity in structure, the biosynthesis pathways, and the functions of bacteria-specific NulOs. These carbohydrates are phylogenetically widespread among bacteria, with numerous structurally unique modifications recognized. Despite the diversity in structure, the NulOs are involved in similar functions such as motility, biofilm formation, host colonization, and immune evasion. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    Nathan D McDonald, E Fidelma Boyd. Structural and Biosynthetic Diversity of Nonulosonic Acids (NulOs) That Decorate Surface Structures in Bacteria. Trends in microbiology. 2021 Feb;29(2):142-157

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    PMID: 32950378

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