Domain specific characteristics of the bifunctional key enzyme of sialic acid biosynthesis, UDP-N-acetylglucosamine 2-epimerase/N-acetylmannosamine kinase


  • A. Blume
  • W. Weidemann
  • U. Stelzl
  • E.E. Wanker
  • L. Lucka
  • P. Donner
  • W. Reutter
  • R. Horstkorte
  • S. Hinderlich


  • Biochemical Journal


  • Biochem J 384 (3): 599-607


  • UDP-N-acetylglucosamine 2-epimerase/N-acetylmannosamine kinase is a bifunctional enzyme, which initiates and regulates sialic acid biosynthesis. Sialic acids are important compounds of mammalian glycoconjugates, mediating several biological processes, such as cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions. In order to characterize the function of UDP-N-acetylglucosamine 2-epimerase/N-acetylmannosamine kinase, a number of deletion mutants were generated, lacking either parts of the N-terminal epimerase or the C-terminal kinase domain. N-terminal deletion of only 39 amino acids results in a complete loss of epimerase activity. Deletions in the C-terminal part result in a reduction or complete loss of kinase activity, depending on the size of the deletion. Deletions at either the N- or the C-terminus also result in a reduction of the other enzyme activity. These results indicate that a separate expression of both domains is possible, but that a strong intramolecular dependency of the two domains has arisen during evolution of the enzyme. N-terminal, as well as C-terminal, mutants tend to form trimers, in addition to the hexameric structure of the native enzyme. These results and yeast two-hybrid experiments show that structures required for dimerization are localized within the kinase domain, and a potential trimerization site is possibly located in a region between the two domains. In conclusion, our results reveal that the activities, as well as the oligomeric structure, of this bifunctional enzyme seem to be organized and regulated in a complex manner.