Letter | Published:

N,O-Diacetylneuraminic Acid and N-Acetylneuraminic Acid in Escherichia coli


DURING the course of an investigation of the biochemical and biological properties of endotoxins extracted from various Gram-negative bacteria, chiefly several Escherichia coli strains, we found and reported briefly1 on the presence in some of these endotoxins of a material having the colour reactions of a sialic acid. The bacterial lipoproteins and lipopolysaccharides which yield this material were prepared by the phenol-water extraction method of Westphal2, separated from accompanying nucleic acid and exhaustively dialysed. The sialic acid is released from this large molecule only upon mild acid hydrolysis, and we, therefore, proposed that it forms an integral part of the cell wall of these bacteria. Members of the sialic acid group had been found previously mainly in mammalian tissue. Barry and Goebel3 had reported the elaboration of a sialic acid-like material, colominic acid, by a specific strain of E. coli. Barry4 has since reported this to be a simple polymer of N-acetylneuraminic acid.

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  1. 1

    De Witt, C. W., Bact. Proc., 75, (1958).

  2. 2

    Westphal, O., Lüderitz, O., and Bister, F., Z. Naturforschg., 7 b, 148 (1952).

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    Barry, G. T., and Goebel, W. F., Nature, 179, 206 (1957).

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    Barry, G. T., J. Exp. Med., 107, 507 (1958).

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    Kindly determined by Dr. W. Ewing, Communicable Disease Center, Chamblee, Georgia.

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    Svennerholm, L., Acta Chem. Scand., 12, 547 (1958)

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    Kindly supplied by Dr. D. Comb, University of Michigan, and Dr. F. Zilliken, University of Pennsylvania. Both obtained from E. coli k235 and are identical in our hands.

  9. 9

    Kindly supplied by Dr. G. Blix, University of Uppsala. Extracted from bovine submaxillary mucin and is presumably the 7-O-acetyl derivative of NANA.

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    Klenk, E., and Uhlenbruck, G., Z. physiol. Chem., 307, 266 (1957).

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    Svennerholm, E., and Svennerholm, L., Nature, 181, 1154 (1958).

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    Comb, D. G., and Roseman, S., J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 80, 497 (1958).

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    Work, E., Nature, 179, 841 (1957).

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    Barry, G. T., Nature, 183, 117 (1959).

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