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Microbiology. 2001 Nov;147(Pt 11):3015-25.

Conserved amino acid residues found in a predicted cytosolic domain of the lipopolysaccharide biosynthetic protein WecA are implicated in the recognition of UDP-N-acetylglucosamine.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C1.


WecA, an integral membrane protein that belongs to a family of polyisoprenyl phosphate N-acetylhexosamine-1-phosphate transferases, is required for the biosynthesis of O-specific LPS and enterobacterial common antigen in Escherichia coli and other enteric bacteria. WecA functions as an UDP-N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc):undecaprenyl-phosphate GlcNAc-1-phosphate transferase. A conserved short sequence motif (His-Ile-His-His; HIHH) and a conserved arginine were identified in WecA at positions 279-282 and 265, respectively. This region is located within a predicted cytosolic segment common to all bacterial homologues of WecA. Both HIHH279-282 and the Arg265 are reminiscent of the HIGH motif (His-Ile-Gly-His) and a nearby upstream lysine, which contribute to the three-dimensional architecture of the nucleotide-binding site among various enzymes displaying nucleotidyltransferase activity. Thus, it was hypothesized that these residues may play a role in the interaction of WecA with UDP-GlcNAc. Replacement of the entire HIHH motif by site-directed mutagenesis produced a protein that, when expressed in the E. coli wecA mutant MV501, did not complement the synthesis of O7 LPS. Membrane extracts containing the mutated protein failed to transfer UDP-GlcNAc into a lipid-rich fraction and to bind the UDP-GlcNAc analogue tunicamycin. Similar results were obtained by individually replacing the first histidine (H279) of the HIHH motif as well as the Arg265 residue. The functional importance of these residues is underscored by the high level of conservation of H279 and Arg265 among bacterial WecA homologues that utilize several different UDP-N-acetylhexosamine substrates.

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