Molecular characterization of the α-glucosidase activity in Enterobacter sakazakii reveals the presence of a putative gene cluster for palatinose metabolism

Angelika Lehner, Kathrin Riedel, Thomas Rattei, Andreas Ruepp, Dimitrij Frishman, Pieter Breeuwer, Benjamin Diep, Leo Eberl, Roger Stephan

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39 Scopus citations


Enterobacter sakazakii is considered an opportunistic pathogen for premature infants and neonates. Although E. sakazakii has been isolated from various types of food, recontaminated dried infant formula has been epidemiologically identified as the major source of infection. Amongst others, α-glucosidase activity is one of the most important biochemical features, which differentiates E. sakazakii from other species in the family Enterobacteriaceae and has therefore been used as a selective marker in the development of differential media. However, it has been shown, that methods based on this biochemical feature are prone to producing false-positive results for presumptive E. sakazakii colonies due to the presence of this enzymatic activity in other species of the Enterobacteriaceae. Therefore, elucidation of the molecular basis responsible for the biochemical feature in E. sakazakii would provide novel targets suitable for the development of more specific and direct identification systems for this organism. By applying the bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) approach, along with heterologous gene expression in Escherichia coli, the molecular basis of the α-glucosidase activity in E. sakazakii was characterized. Here we report the identification of two different α-glucosidase encoding genes. Homology searches of the deduced amino acid sequences revealed that the proteins belong to a cluster of gene products putatively responsible for the metabolism of isomaltulose (palatinose; 6-O-α-d-glucopyranosyl-d-fructose). The glycosyl-hydrolyzing activity of each protein was demonstrated by subcloning the respective open reading frames and screening of E. coli transformants for their ability to hydrolyze 4-methyl-umbelliferyl-α-d-glucoside. Analysis at the protein level revealed that both enzymes belong to the intracellular fraction of cell proteins. The presence of the postulated palatinose metabolism was proven by growth experiments using this sugar as a sole carbon source.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-625
Number of pages17
JournalSystematic and Applied Microbiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 4 Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Enterobacter sakazakii
  • Palatinose metabolism
  • α-glucosidase activity


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