Genetic and molecular basis of Kingella kingae encapsulation

Kimberly F. Starr, Eric A. Porsch, Patrick C. Seed, Joseph W St Geme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Kingella kingae is a common cause of invasive disease in young children and was recently found to produce a polysaccharide capsule containing N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) and β-3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonic acid (βKdo). Given the role of capsules as important virulence factors and effective vaccine antigens, we set out to determine the genetic determinants of K. kingae encapsulation. Using a transposon library and a screen for nonencapsulated mutants, we identified the previously identified ctrABCD (ABC transporter) operon, a lipA (kpsC)-like gene, a lipB (kpsS)-like gene, and a putative glycosyltransferase gene designated csaA (capsule synthesis type a gene A). These genes were found to be present at unlinked locations scattered throughout the genome, an atypical genetic arrangement for Gram-negative bacteria that elaborate a capsule dependent on an ABC-type transporter for surface localization. The csaA gene product contains a predicted glycosyltransferase domain with structural homology to GalNAc transferases and a predicted capsule synthesis domain with structural homology to Kdo transferases, raising the possibility that this enzyme is responsible for alternately linking GalNAc to βKdo and βKdo to GalNAc. Consistent with this conclusion, mutation of the DXD motif in the GalNAc transferase domain and of the HP motif in the Kdo transferase domain resulted in a loss of encapsulation. Examination of intracellular and surface-associated capsule in deletion mutants and complemented strains further implicated the lipA (kpsC)-like gene, the lipB (kpsS)-like gene, and the csaA gene in K. kingae capsule production. These data define the genetic requirements for encapsulation in K. kingae and demonstrate an atypical organization of capsule synthesis, assembly, and export genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1775-1784
Number of pages10
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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