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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Mar;39(6):1427-33.

Dispensable nature of phosphatidylglycerol in Escherichia coli: dual roles of anionic phospholipids.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Science, Saitama University, 255 Shimo-ohkubo, Urawa, Saitama 338-8570, Japan.


The major anionic phospholipids of Escherichia coli, phosphatidylglycerol (PG) and cardiolipin (CL), have been considered to be indispensable for essential cellular functions, such as the initiation of DNA replication and translocation of proteins across the cytoplasmic membrane. However, we successfully constructed a null pgsA mutant of E. coli that had undetectable levels of PG and CL if the major outer membrane lipoprotein was deficient, clearly indicating that these anionic phospholipids are not indispensable. In the null mutant, we observed the accumulation of phosphatidic acid, an acidic biosynthetic precursor. This suggests a functionally substitutable nature of these anionic phospholipids and allows us to formulate a dual role model for the physiological roles of the anionic phospholipids in E. coli. The anionic phospholipids may play dual roles in E. coli as (i) substrates for head group-specific enzyme reactions, albeit the viability of null PG mutants indicates that the products of head group-specific reactions are not essential; and (ii) those that are replaceable, partly or entirely, by other phospholipids bearing net negative charges, because of their rather loose head group specificity. These two aspects of the physiological roles of anionic phospholipids are discussed with special reference to the phospholipids of other bacteria and eukaryotic organelles.

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