Structural analysis of broiler chicken small intestinal mucin O-glycan modification by Clostridium perfringens




MacMillan, Jaclyn L.
Vicaretti, Sara D.
Noyovitz, Benjamin
Xing, Xiaohui
Low, Kristin E.
Inglis, G. Douglas
Zaytsoff, Sarah J.M.
Boraston, Alisdair B.
Smith, Steven P.
Uwiera, Richard R.E.

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Poultry Science


Clostridium perfringens is a Gram-positive opportunistic pathogen that is the principal etiological agent of necrotic enteritis (NE) in poultry. The ability of C. perfringens to incite NE depends upon its ability to penetrate the protective mucus barrier within the small intestine, which is largely composed of heavily glycosylated proteins called mucins. Mucins are decorated by N- and O-linked glycans that serve both as a formidable gel-like barrier against invading pathogens and as a rich carbon source for mucolytic bacteria. The composition of avian O-linked glycans is markedly different from mucins in other vertebrates, being enriched in sulfated monosaccharides and N-acetyl-d-neuraminic acid (Neu5Ac, sialic acid). These modifications increase the overall negative charge of mucins and are believed to impede colonization by enteric pathogens. The mechanism by which C. perfringens penetrates the poultry intestinal mucus layer during NE is still unknown. However, the CAZome (i.e., the total collection of proteins encoded within a genome active on carbohydrates) of C. perfringens strain CP1 encodes several putative and known enzymes with activities consistent with the modification of mucin. To further investigate this relationship, O-glycans from Gallus gallus domesticus mucus were extracted from the small intestine and characterized using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Chicken mucin monosaccharides included l-fucose (Fuc), d-mannose (Man), d-galactose (Gal), N-acetyl-d-galactosamine (GalNAc), N-acetyl-d-glucosamine (GlcNAc), and Neu5Ac (sialic acid). Using these monosaccharides as sole carbon sources, we showed that C. perfringens CP1 grew on Neu5Ac, Man, Gal, and GlcNAc but not on Fuc and GalNAc. We also demonstrated C. perfringens grew on different native-state preparations of intestinal mucins and mucus including porcine mucins, chicken mucus, and chicken mucins. Finally, anaerobic incubation of chicken mucin O-glycans with C. perfringens and subsequent analysis of the glycans revealed that there was preferential removal of Neu5Ac. These observations are discussed in the context of the predicted metabolic potential of C. perfringens CP1 and the mucolytic enzymes encoded within its CAZome.



Clostridium, mucin O-glycan, intestinal mucus, carbohydrate chromatography, mass spectrometry


MacMillan, J.L., Vicaretti, S.D., Noyovitz, B., Xing, X., Low, K.E., Inglis, D., … Abbott, D.W. (2019). Structural analysis of broiler chicken small intestinal mucin Oglycan modification by Clostridium perfringens. Poultry Science, 98(10), 5074- 5088.