Galactosamine was found consistently as a minor component of the envelope of five species of slow-growing mycobacteria, including all the major human pathogens, but not three rapid-growing species. The amino sugar was a component of the arabinogalactan of the cell wall skeleton, and occurred at the level of about one residue per arabinogalactan chain. Its amino group was in the free, un-N-acetylated state. Examination of oligosaccharides released by partial acid hydrolysis of arabinogalactan by fast atom bombardment-MS and gas chromatography-MS identified a series of oligoarabinans, each possessing one GalN unit, linked to position 2 of arabinose. It is proposed that the GalN residues occur as stub branches of 1 → 5-linked arabinose chains in the arabinogalactan. Possible functions of GalN are discussed.

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