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International Journal of Microbiology
Volume 2010, Article ID 470138, 20 pages
Review Article

Biosynthesis and Role of N-Linked Glycosylation in Cell Surface Structures of Archaea with a Focus on Flagella and S Layers

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada K7L 3N6

Received 9 March 2010; Accepted 1 August 2010

Academic Editor: Charlene Kahler

Copyright © 2010 Ken F. Jarrell et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The genetics and biochemistry of the N-linked glycosylation system of Archaea have been investigated over the past 5 years using flagellins and S layers as reporter proteins in the model organisms, Methanococcus voltae, Methanococcus maripaludis, and Haloferax volcanii. Structures of archaeal N-linked glycans have indicated a variety of linking sugars as well as unique sugar components. In M. voltae, M. maripaludis, and H. volcanii, a number of archaeal glycosylation genes (agl) have been identified by deletion and complementation studies. These include many of the glycosyltransferases and the oligosaccharyltransferase needed to assemble the glycans as well as some of the genes encoding enzymes required for the biosynthesis of the sugars themselves. The N-linked glycosylation system is not essential for any of M. voltae, M. maripaludis, or H. volcanii, as demonstrated by the successful isolation of mutants carrying deletions in the oligosaccharyltransferase gene aglB (a homologue of the eukaryotic Stt3 subunit of the oligosaccharyltransferase complex). However, mutations that affect the glycan structure have serious effects on both flagellation and S layer function.