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J Endotoxin Res. 2006;12(4):205-23.

Diversity of endotoxin and its impact on pathogenesis.

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Department of Microbiology, James H. Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, USA.


Lipopolysaccharide or LPS is localized to the outer leaflet of the outer membrane and serves as the major surface component of the bacterial cell envelope. This remarkable glycolipid is essential for virtually all Gram-negative organisms and represents one of the conserved microbial structures responsible for activation of the innate immune system. For these reasons, the structure, function, and biosynthesis of LPS has been an area of intense research. The LPS of a number of bacteria is composed of three distinct regions--lipid A, a short core oligosaccharide, and the O-antigen polysaccharide. The lipid A domain, also known as endotoxin, anchors the molecule in the outer membrane and is the bioactive component recognized by TLR4 during human infection. Overall, the biochemical synthesis of lipid A is a highly conserved process; however, investigation of the lipid A structures of various organisms shows an impressive amount of diversity. These differences can be attributed to the action of latent enzymes that modify the canonical lipid A molecule. Variation of the lipid A domain of LPS serves as one strategy utilized by Gram-negative bacteria to promote survival by providing resistance to components of the innate immune system and helping to evade recognition by TLR4. This review summarizes the biochemical machinery required for the production of diverse lipid A structures of human pathogens and how structural modification of endotoxin impacts pathogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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