UDP-glucose dehydrogenase catalyses the conversion of UDP-glucose into UDP-GlcA, a critical precursor for glycan synthesis across evolution. We have cloned the gene encoding this important enzyme from the opportunistic pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. In this fungus, UDP-GlcA is required for the synthesis of capsule polysaccharides, which in turn are essential for virulence. The gene was expressed in Escherichia coli and the 51.3-kDa recombinant protein from wild-type and five mutants was purified for analysis. The cryptococcal enzyme is strongly inhibited by UDP-xylose and NADH, has highest activity at pH 7.5 and demonstrates Km (app) values of 0.1 and 1.5 mM for NAD+ and UDP-glucose respectively. Its activity was significantly decreased by mutations in the putative sites of NAD+ and UDP-glucose binding. Unlike previously reported eukaryotic UDP-glucose dehydrogenases, which are hexamers, the cryptococcal enzyme is a dimer.

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