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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Apr;56(1):68-80.

Importance of unusually modified lipid A in Sinorhizobium stress resistance and legume symbiosis.

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Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3JR, UK.


Sinorhizobium meliloti, a legume symbiont and Brucella abortus, a phylogenetically related mammalian pathogen, both require their BacA proteins to establish chronic intracellular infections in their respective hosts. The lipid A molecules of S. meliloti and B. abortus are unusually modified with a very-long-chain fatty acid (VLCFA; C > or = 28) and we discovered that BacA is involved in this unusual modification. This observation raised the possibility that the unusual lipid A modification could be crucial for the chronic infection of both S. meliloti and B. abortus. We investigated this by constructing and characterizing S. meliloti mutants in the lpxXL and acpXL genes, which encode an acyl transferase and acyl carrier protein directly involved in the biosynthesis of VLCFA-modified lipid A. Our analysis revealed that the unusually modified lipid A is important, but not crucial, for S. meliloti chronic infection and that BacA must have an additional function, which in combination with its observed effect on the lipid A in the free-living form of S. meliloti, is essential for the chronic infection. Additionally, we discovered that in the absence of VLCFAs, S. meliloti produces novel pentaacylated lipid A species, modified with unhydroxylated fatty acids, which are important for stress resistance.

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