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J Bacteriol. 2007 Apr;189(7):2618-28. Epub 2007 Jan 19.

Functional characterization and membrane topology of Escherichia coli WecA, a sugar-phosphate transferase initiating the biosynthesis of enterobacterial common antigen and O-antigen lipopolysaccharide.

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


WecA is an integral membrane protein that initiates the biosynthesis of enterobacterial common antigen and O-antigen lipopolysaccharide (LPS) by catalyzing the transfer of N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc)-1-phosphate onto undecaprenyl phosphate (Und-P) to form Und-P-P-GlcNAc. WecA belongs to a large family of eukaryotic and prokaryotic prenyl sugar transferases. Conserved aspartic acids in putative cytoplasmic loops 2 (Asp90 and Asp91) and 3 (Asp156 and Asp159) were targeted for replacement mutagenesis with either glutamic acid or asparagine. We examined the ability of each mutant protein to complement O-antigen LPS synthesis in a wecA-deficient strain and also determined the steady-state kinetic parameters of the mutant proteins in an in vitro transfer assay. Apparent K(m) and V(max) values for UDP-GlcNAc, Mg(2+), and Mn(2+) suggest that Asp156 is required for catalysis, while Asp91 appears to interact preferentially with Mg(2+), possibly playing a role in orienting the substrates. Topological analysis using the substituted cysteine accessibility method demonstrated the cytosolic location of Asp90, Asp91, and Asp156 and provided a more refined overall topological map of WecA. Also, we show that cells expressing a WecA derivative C terminally fused with the green fluorescent protein exhibited a punctate distribution of fluorescence on the bacterial surface, suggesting that WecA localizes to discrete regions in the bacterial plasma membrane.

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