Structural and mechanistic basis of capsule O-acetylation in Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A
O-Acetylation of the capsular polysaccharide (CPS) of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A (NmA) is critical for the induction of functional immune responses, making this modification mandatory for CPS-based anti-NmA vaccines. Using comprehensive NMR studies, we demonstrate that O-acetylation stabilizes the labile anomeric phosphodiester-linkages of the NmA-CPS and occurs in position C3 and C4 of the N-acetylmannosamine units due to enzymatic transfer and non-enzymatic ester migration, respectively. To shed light on the enzymatic transfer mechanism, we solved the crystal structure of the capsule O-acetyltransferase CsaC in its apo and acceptor-bound form and of the CsaC-H228A mutant as trapped acetyl-enzyme adduct in complex with CoA. Together with the results of a comprehensive mutagenesis study, the reported structures explain the strict regioselectivity of CsaC and provide insight into the catalytic mechanism, which relies on an unexpected Gln-extension of a classical Ser-His-Asp triad, embedded in an a/v-hydrolase fold.