Production of nonulosonic acids in the extracellular polymeric substances of “Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis”

Sergio Tomás-Martínez*, Hugo B.C. Kleikamp, Thomas R. Neu, Martin Pabst, David G. Weissbrodt, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht, Yuemei Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Nonulosonic acids (NulOs) are a family of acidic carbohydrates with a nine-carbon backbone, which include different related structures, such as sialic acids. They have mainly been studied for their relevance in animal cells and pathogenic bacteria. Recently, sialic acids have been discovered as an important compound in the extracellular matrix of virtually all microbial life and in “Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis”, a well-studied polyphosphate-accumulating organism, in particular. Here, bioaggregates highly enriched with these bacteria (approx. 95% based on proteomic data) were used to study the production of NulOs in an enrichment of this microorganism. Fluorescence lectin-binding analysis, enzymatic quantification, and mass spectrometry were used to analyze the different NulOs present, showing a wide distribution and variety of these carbohydrates, such as sialic acids and bacterial NulOs, in the bioaggregates. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed the potential of “Ca. Accumulibacter” to produce different types of NulOs. Proteomic analysis showed the ability of “Ca. Accumulibacter” to reutilize and reincorporate these carbohydrates. This investigation points out the importance of diverse NulOs in non-pathogenic bacteria, which are normally overlooked. Sialic acids and other NulOs should be further investigated for their role in the ecology of “Ca. Accumulibacter” in particular, and biofilms in general. Key Points: •“Ca. Accumulibacter” has the potential to produce a range of nonulosonic acids. •Mass spectrometry and lectin binding can reveal the presence and location of nonulosonic acids. •The role of nonulosonic acid in non-pathogenic bacteria needs to be studied in detail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3327-3338
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Biological phosphate removal
  • Extracellular polymeric substances
  • Granular sludge
  • Nonulosonic acids
  • Sialic acids
  • “Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis”


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