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J Bacteriol. 1992 Jul;174(14):4746-52.

Comparison of lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis genes rfaK, rfaL, rfaY, and rfaZ of Escherichia coli K-12 and Salmonella typhimurium.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Arizona State University, Tempe 85287-2701.


Analysis of the sequence of a 4.3-kb region downstream of rfaJ revealed four genes. The first two of these, which encode proteins of 27,441 and 32,890 Da, were identified as rfaY and rfaZ by homology of the derived protein sequences of their products to the products of similar genes of Salmonella typhimurium. The amino acid sequences of proteins RfaY and RfaZ showed, respectively, 70 and 72% identity. Genes 3 and 4 were identified as rfaK and rfaL on the basis of size and position, but the derived amino acid sequences of the products of these genes showed very little similarity (about 12% identity) between Escherichia coli K-12 and S. typhimurium. The next gene in the cluster, rfaC, encodes a product which also shows strong protein sequence homology between E. coli K-12 and S. typhimurium, as do the rfaF and rfaD genes which lie beyond it. Thus, the rfa gene cluster appears to consist of two blocks of genes which are conserved flanking a central region of two genes which are not conserved between these species. Although the RfaL protein sequence is not conserved, hydropathy plots of the two RfaL species are nearly identical and indicate that this is a typical integral membrane protein with 10 or more potential transmembrane domains. We noted the similarity of the structure of the rfa gene cluster to that of the rfb gene cluster, which has now been sequenced in several Salmonella serovars. The rfb cluster also contains a gene which lies within a central nonconserved region and encodes an integral membrane protein similar to protein RfaL. We speculate that protein RfaL may interact in a strain- or species-specific way with one or more Rfb proteins in the expression of surface O antigen.

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