Biochemical and Genetic Studies of UDP-2,3-Diacylglucosamine Hydrolysis in Lipid A Biosynthesis

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Zhou, Pei

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The outer-leaflet of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria is composed of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which is attached to the membrane via a hexa-acylated saccharolipid called lipid A. The fourth step of lipid A biosynthesis involves the cleavage of the pyrophosphate group of UDP-2,3-diacyl-GlcN to form lipid X; this step is carried out by LpxH in E. coli and the majority of Gamma- and Beta-Proteobacteria. LpxH has been previously characterized, however sample impurity and non-optimized assay conditions hindered meaningful conclusions. The enzyme was suggested to contain signature motifs found in the calcineurin-like phosphoesterase (CLP) family of metalloenzymes, however the extent of biochemical data fails to demonstrate a significant level of metal activation in LpxH assays. We report cloning, purification, and detailed enzymatic characterization with a highly purified sample of H. influenzae LpxH (HiLpxH). HiLpxH shows over 600-fold stimulation of activity in the presence of Mn2+. Furthermore, EPR studies reveal the presence of a Mn2+ cluster in LpxH. Finally, point mutants of residues in the conserved metal-binding motifs of the CLP family greatly inhibit HiLpxH activity, highlighting their importance in enzyme function. Overall, through optimized purification and assay methods, our work unambiguously establishes LpxH as a membrane-associating CLP containing a Mn2+ cluster coordinated by conserved residues. These results set the scene for further structural investigation of the enzyme and for design of novel antibiotics targeting lipid A biosynthesis.

Several species of Gram-negative bacteria lack LpxH orthologs, yet retain other lipid A biosynthetic enzymes and still produce lipid A. An unrelated protein, LpxI, is responsible for UDP-DAGn hydrolysis is several such organisms. Interestingly, some bacteria, such as the human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis, have neither LpxH nor LpxI orthologs, suggesting the presence of a third UDP-DAGn hydrolase. Through implantation of a novel complementation screen that used a C. trachmatis genomic library and a conditional-lethal lpxH mutant E. coli strain, we were able to identify an open reading frame encoding an new enzyme capable of lipid X production. Due to its ability to complement UDP-DAGn hydrolase function in vivo and catalyze the formation of lipid X in vitro, we have designated the enzyme LpxG. Further biochemical analysis with purified LpxG revealed it facilitates hydrolysis through attack on the alpha phosphate of its substrate and is activated by Mn2+ in vitro. LpxG is in the same CLP superfamily as LpxH, however it shows very little homology to LpxH or LpxI. Identification of LpxG improves our understanding of the lipid A biosynthetic pathway in C. trachomatis. More broadly, as limited genetic tools are available for the study of the prevalent pathogen, it provides an advantageous method for the functional screening of other C. trachomatis genes.






Young, Hayley Elizabeth (2014). Biochemical and Genetic Studies of UDP-2,3-Diacylglucosamine Hydrolysis in Lipid A Biosynthesis. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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