Oligosaccharides containing N-acetylneuraminic acid on the cell surface of some pathogenic bacteria are important for host-microbe interactions. N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) plays a major role in the pathogenicity of bacterial pathogens. For example, cell surface sialyloligosaccharide moieties of the human pathogen Haemophilus influenzae are involved in virulence and adhesion to host cells. In this study, we have established a method of visualizing Neu5Ac linked to a glycoconjugate on the bacterial cell surface based on lectin staining. Photobacterium damselae strain JT0160, known to produce α-2,6-sialyltransferase, was revealed to possess Neu5Ac by HPLC. Using the strain, a strong Sambucus sieboldiana lectin-binding signal was detected. The bacteria producing α-2,6-sialyltransferases could be divided into two groups: those with a lot of α-2,6-linked Neu5Ac on the cell surface and those with a little. In the present study, we developed a useful method for evaluating the relationship between Neu5Ac expression on the cell surface and the degree of virulence of marine bacteria.
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