Structure and Evolution of Glycogen Branching Enzyme N-Termini From Bacteria

Liang Wang, Qinghua Liu, Junfeng Hu, James Asenso, Michael J. Wise, Xiang Wu, Chao Ma, Xiuqing Chen, Jianye Yang, Daoquan Tang

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22 Citations (Web of Science)


In bacteria, glycogen plays important roles in carbon and energy storage. Its structure has recently been linked with bacterial environmental durability. Among the essential genes for bacterial glycogen metabolism, the glgB-encoded branching enzyme GBE plays an essential role in forming alpha-1,6-glycosidic branching points, and determines the unique branching patterns in glycogen. Previously, evolutionary analysis of a small sets of GBEs based on their N-terminal domain organization revealed that two types of GBEs might exist: (1) Type 1 GBE with both N1 and N2 (also known as CBM48) domains and (2) Type 2 GBE with only the N2 domain. In this study, we initially analyzed N-terminal domains of 169 manually reviewed bacterial GBEs based on hidden Markov models. A previously unreported group of GBEs (Type 3) with around 100 amino acids ahead of the N1 domains was identified. Phylogenetic analysis found clustered patterns of GBE types in certain bacterial phyla, with the shorter, Type 2 GBEs predominantly found in Gram-positive species, while the longer Type 1 GBEs are found in Gram-negative species. Several in vitro studies have linked N1 domain with transfer of short oligosaccharide chains during glycogen formation, which could lead to small and compact glycogen structures. Compact glycogen degrades more slowly and, as a result, may serve as a durable energy reserve, contributing to the enhanced environmental persistence for bacteria. We were therefore interested in classifying GBEs based on their N-terminal domain via large-scale sequence analysis. In addition, we set to understand the evolutionary patterns of different GBEs through phylogenetic analysis at species and sequence levels. Three-dimensional modeling of GBE N-termini was also performed for structural comparisons. A further study of 9,387 GBE sequences identified 147 GBEs that might belong to a possibly novel group of Type 3 GBE, most of which fall into the phylum of Actinobacteria. We also attempted to correlate glycogen average chain length (ACL) with GBE types. However, no significant conclusions were drawn due to limited data availability. In sum, our study systematically investigated bacterial GBEs in terms of domain organizations from evolutionary point of view, which provides guidance for further experimental study of GBE N-terminal functions in glycogen structure and bacterial physiology.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3354
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberJAN
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2019


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