Fusobacterium nucleatum is an anaerobic bacterium found in the human mouth where it causes periodontitis. Recently, it has been gaining attention as a potential causative agent for colorectal cancer and is strongly linked with pregnancy complications including pre-term and still births. Little is known about virulence factors of this organism and thus we have initiated studies to examine the bacterial surface glycochemistry. Consistent with a recent paper suggesting that F. nucleatum strain 10593 can synthesize sialic acid, a staining technique identified sialic acid on the bacterial surface. We isolated lipopolysaccharide from this F. nucleatum strain and performed structural analysis on the O-antigen. Our studies identified a trisaccharide repeating unit of the O-antigen with the following structure:
-[→4)-α-Neup5Ac-(2 → 4)-β-d-Galp-(1 → 3)-α-d-FucpNAc4NAc-(1-]-
where Ac indicates 4-N-acetylation of ∼30% FucNAc4N residues.
The presence of sialic acid as a constituent of the O-antigen is consistent with recent data identifying de novo sialic acid synthesis in this strain.