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J Biol Chem. 2010 May 21;285(21):15828-36. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.102061. Epub 2010 Mar 29.

Altered linkage of hydroxyacyl chains in lipid A of Campylobacter jejuni reduces TLR4 activation and antimicrobial resistance.

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  • 1Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 1, 3584 CL Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Modification of the lipid A moiety of bacterial lipopolysaccharide influences cell wall properties, endotoxic activity, and bacterial resistance to antimicrobial peptides. Known modifications are variation in the number or length of acyl chains and/or attached phosphoryl groups. Here we identified two genes (gnnA and gnnB) in the major foodborne pathogen Campylobacter jejuni that enable the synthesis of a GlcN3N precursor UDP 2-acetamido-3-amino-2,3-dideoxy-alpha-D-glucopyranose (UDP-GlcNAc3N) in the lipid A backbone. Mass spectrometry of purified lipooligosaccharide verified that the gene products facilitate the formation of a 2,3-diamino-2,3-dideoxy-D-glucose (GlcN3N) disaccharide lipid A backbone when compared with the beta-1'-6-linked D-glucosamine (GlcN) disaccharide observed in Escherichia coli lipid A. Functional assays showed that inactivation of the gnnA or gnnB gene enhanced the TLR4-MD2-mediated NF-kappaB activation. The mutants also displayed increased susceptibility to killing by the antimicrobial peptides polymyxin B, colistin and the chicken cathelicidin-1. The gnnA and gnnB genes are organized in one operon with hemH, encoding a ferrochelatase catalyzing the last step in heme biosynthesis. These results indicate that lipid A modification resulting in amide-linked acyl chains in the lipid A is an effective mechanism to evade activation of the innate host defense and killing by antimicrobial peptides.

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