Rhamnose Links Moonlighting Proteins to Membrane Phospholipid in Mycoplasmas

Many proteins that have a primary function as a cytoplasmic protein are known to have the ability to moonlight on the surface of nearly all organisms. An example is the glycolytic enzyme enolase, which can be found on the surface of many types of cells from bacteria to human. Surface enolase is not enzymatic because it is monomeric and oligomerization is required for glycolytic activity. It can bind various molecules and activate plasminogen. Enolase lacks a signal peptide and the mechanism by which it attaches to the surface is unknown. We found that treatment of whole cells of the murine pathogen Mycoplasma pulmonis with phospholipase D released enolase and other common moonlighting proteins. Glycostaining suggested that the released proteins were glycosylated. Cytoplasmic and membrane-bound enolase was isolated by immunoprecipitation. No post-translational modification was detected on cytoplasmic enolase, but membrane enolase was associated with lipid, phosphate and rhamnose. Treatment with phospholipase released the lipid and phosphate from enolase but not the rhamnose. The site of rhamnosylation was identified as a glutamine residue near the C-terminus of the protein. Rhamnose has been found in all species of mycoplasma examined but its function was previously unknown. Mycoplasmas are small bacteria with have no peptidoglycan, and rhamnose in these organisms is also not associated with polysaccharide. We suggest that rhamnose has a central role in anchoring proteins to the membrane by linkage to phospholipid, which may be a general mechanism for the membrane association of moonlighting proteins in mycoplasmas and perhaps other bacteria.