Pili, which are filamentous protein structures on the surface of the meningitis-causing organism Neisseria meningitidis, are known to be post-translationally modified with substituents that affect their mobility in SDS/PAGE and which might play a crucial role in adherence and bloodstream invasion. Tryptic digests of pili were analysed by fast atom bombardment and electrospray MS to identify putative modifications. Serine-93 was found to carry a novel modification of α-glycerophosphate. This is the first time that α-glycerophosphate has been observed as a substituent of a prokaryotic or eukaryotic protein.

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