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IUBMB Life. 2009 Oct;61(10):940-53. doi: 10.1002/iub.240.

Tuning the properties of the bacterial membrane with aminoacylated phosphatidylglycerol.

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Department of Microbiology, Ohio State Biochemistry Program, Center for RNA Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1292, USA.


The bacterial envelope is a semi-permeable barrier that protects the cell from the hostilities of the environment. To survive the ever-changing conditions of their surroundings, bacteria need to rapidly adjust the biochemical properties of their cellular envelope. Amino acid (aa) addition to phosphatidylglycerol (PG) of the membrane is one of the mechanisms used by bacteria to lower the net negative charge of their cellular envelope, thereby decreasing its affinity for several antibacterial agents such as the cationic antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs) produced by the innate immune response during host infection. This process requires the activity of an integral membrane protein, called aa-PG synthase (aaPGS), to transfer the aa of aminoacyl-tRNA (aa-tRNA) onto the PG of the membrane. aaPGSs constitute a new family of virulence factors that are found in a wide range of microorganisms. aa-PGs not only provide resistance to CAMPs but also to other classes of antibacterial agents and to environmental stresses such as those encountered during extreme osmotic or acidic conditions. This review will describe the known biochemical properties of aa-PGSs, their specificity for aa-tRNAs and phospholipids, and the growing repertoire of aa used as substrates by these enzymes. Their prevalence in bacteria and the phenotypes and modulations of membrane properties associated with these molecules will be addressed, as well as their regulation as a component of the envelope stress response system in certain bacteria.

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