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Prog Lipid Res. 2010 Apr;49(2):97-107. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2009.06.002. Epub 2009 Oct 6.

Lipopolysaccharide: Biosynthetic pathway and structure modification.

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State Key Laboratory of Food Science and Technology, Jiangnan University, 1800 Lihu Avenue, Wuxi 214122, China.


Lipopolysaccharide that constitutes the outer leaflet of the outer membrane of most Gram-negative bacteria is referred to as an endotoxin. It is comprised of a hydrophilic polysaccharide and a hydrophobic component referred to as lipid A. Lipid A is responsible for the major bioactivity of endotoxin, and is recognized by immune cells as a pathogen-associated molecule. Most enzymes and genes coding for proteins responsible for the biosynthesis and export of lipopolysaccharide in Escherichia coli have been identified, and they are shared by most Gram-negative bacteria based on genetic information. The detailed structure of lipopolysaccharide differs from one bacterium to another, consistent with the recent discovery of additional enzymes and gene products that can modify the basic structure of lipopolysaccharide in some bacteria, especially pathogens. These modifications are not required for survival, but are tightly regulated in the cell and closely related to the virulence of bacteria. In this review we discuss recent studies of the biosynthesis and export of lipopolysaccharide, and the relationship between the structure of lipopolysaccharide and the virulence of bacteria.

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