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Capsular polysaccharides form the outermost protective layer around many Gram-negative bacteria. Antibiotics aimed directly at weakening this layer are not yet available. In pathogenic Escherichia coli E69, a protein, Wza, forms a pore in the outer membrane that transports K30 capsular polysaccharide from its site of synthesis to the outside of the cell. This therefore represents a prospective antibiotic target. Here we test a variety of grommet-like mimics of K30 capsular polysaccharide on wild-type Wza and on mutant open forms of the pore by electrical recording in planar lipid bilayers. The most effective glycomimetic was the unnatural cyclic octasaccharide octakis(6-deoxy-6-amino)cyclomaltooctaose (am8γCD), which blocks the α-helix barrel of Wza, a site that is directly accessible from the external medium. This glycomimetic inhibited K30 polysaccharide transport in live E. coli E69. With the protective outer membrane disrupted, the bacteria can be recognized and killed by the human immune system.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Chem

Publication Date





651 - 659


Carbohydrate Metabolism, Carrier Proteins, Escherichia coli