The Hidden Conformation of Lewis x, a Human Histo-Blood Group Antigen, Is a Determinant for Recognition by Pathogen Lectins

Histo-blood group epitopes are fucosylated branched oligosaccharides with well-defined conformations in solution that are recognized by receptors, such as lectins from pathogens. The results of a series of experimental and computational endeavors are reported ; they reveal an unusual distortion of histo-blood group antigens by bacterial and fungal lectins.

The Lewis x trisaccharide adopts a rigid closed conformation in solution, while crystallography and molecular dynamics reveal several higher energy open conformations when bound to the Ralstonia solanacearum lectin, which is in agreement with thermodynamic and kinetic measurements. Extensive molecular dynamics simulations confirm rare transient Lex openings in solution, frequently assisted by distortion of the central N-acetyl-glucosamine ring. Additional directed molecular dynamic trajectories revealed the role of a conserved tryptophan residue in guiding the fucose into the binding site. These findings show that conformational adaptation of oligosaccharides is of paramount importance in cell recognition and should be considered when designing anti-infective glyco-compounds.