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Microbiology. 2014 Mar;160(Pt 3):589-601. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.074955-0. Epub 2014 Jan 14.

Relationship between O-antigen chain length and resistance to colicin E2 in Shigella flexneri.

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School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, Australia.


The Shigella flexneri polysaccharide co-polymerase class 1a (PCP1a) protein, WzzBSF, regulates LPS O-antigen (Oag) chain length to confer short (S)-type Oag chains of ~10-17 Oag repeat units (RUs). The S-type Oag chains affect Shigella flexneri virulence as they influence IcsA-mediated actin-based motility. However, they do not confer resistance to complement; this is conferred by the very-long (VL)-type Oag chains determined by WzzB(pHS2). Colicins are bacterial proteins produced by some Escherichia coli strains to kill related strains. While the presence of Oag chains has been shown to shield outer-membrane proteins from colicins, the impact of Oag chain length against colicins is unknown. In this study, initial testing indicated that a Shigella flexneri Y wzz : : kan(r) mutant was more sensitive to colicin E2 compared with the WT strain. Plasmids encoding Wzz mutant and WT PCP1a proteins conferring different Oag modal chain lengths were then expressed in the mutant background, and tested against purified colicin E2. Analysis of swab and spot sensitivity assays showed that strains expressing either S-type or long (L)-type Oag chains (16-28 Oag RUs) conferred greater resistance to colicin E2 compared with strains having very-short-type (2-8 Oag RUs), intermediate-short-type (8-14 Oag RUs) or VL-type (>80 Oag RUs) Oag chains. These results suggest a novel role for LPS Oag chain length control that may have evolved due to selection pressure from colicins in the environment.

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