Sialic acid acquisition in bacteria - one substrate many transporters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sialic acids are a family of 9-carbon sugar acids found predominantly on the cell-surface glycans of humans and other animals within the Deuterostomes and are also used in the biology of a wide range of bacteria that often live in association with these animals. For many bacteria sialic acids are simply a convenient source of food, whereas for some pathogens they are also used in immune evasion strategies. Many bacteria that use sialic acids derive them from the environment and so are dependent on sialic acid uptake. In this mini-review I will describe the discovery and characterization of bacterial sialic acids transporters, revealing that they have evolved multiple times across multiple diverse families of transporters, including the ATP-binding cassette (ABC), tripartite ATP-independent periplasmic (TRAP), major facilitator superfamily (MFS) and sodium solute symporter (SSS) transporter families. In addition there is evidence for protein-mediated transport of sialic acids across the outer membrane of Gram negative bacteria, which can be coupled to periplasmic processing of different sialic acids to the most common form, β-D-N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) that is most frequently taken up into the cell.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760-765
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical Society transactions
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016 The Author(s). published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • sialic acid
  • TRAP transporter
  • MFS transporter
  • SSS transporter
  • Escherichia coli

Cite this