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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Sep;1778(9):1881-96. Epub 2007 Aug 11.

Structural biology of membrane-intrinsic beta-barrel enzymes: sentinels of the bacterial outer membrane.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, 1200 Main Street West, Health Sciences Centre 4H19, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8N 3Z5.


The outer membranes of Gram-negative bacteria are replete with integral membrane proteins that exhibit antiparallel beta-barrel structures, but very few of these proteins function as enzymes. In Escherichia coli, only three beta-barrel enzymes are known to exist in the outer membrane; these are the phospholipase OMPLA, the protease OmpT, and the phospholipidColon, two colonslipid A palmitoyltransferase PagP, all of which have been characterized at the structural level. Structural details have also emerged for the outer membrane beta-barrel enzyme PagL, a lipid A 3-O-deacylase from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Lipid A can be further modified in the outer membrane by two beta-barrel enzymes of unknown structure; namely, the Salmonella enterica 3'-acyloxyacyl hydrolase LpxR, and the Rhizobium leguminosarum oxidase LpxQ, which employs O(2) to convert the proximal glucosamine unit of lipid A into 2-aminogluconate. Structural biology now indicates how beta-barrel enzymes can function as sentinels that remain dormant when the outer membrane permeability barrier is intact. Host immune defenses and antibiotics that perturb this barrier can directly trigger beta-barrel enzymes in the outer membrane. The ensuing adaptive responses occur instantaneously and rapidly outpace other signal transduction mechanisms that similarly function to restore the outer membrane permeability barrier.

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