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J Bacteriol. 2005 Aug;187(15):5470-81.

functional analysis of conserved gene products involved in assembly of Escherichia coli capsules and exopolysaccharides: evidence for molecular recognition between Wza and Wzc for colanic acid biosynthesis.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, New Science Complex, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.


Group 1 capsular polysaccharides (CPSs) of Escherichia coli and some loosely cell-associated exopolysaccharides (EPSs), such as colanic acid, are assembled by a Wzy-dependent polymerization system. In this biosynthesis pathway, Wza, Wzb, and Wzc homologues are required for surface expression of wild-type CPS or EPS. Multimeric complexes of Wza in the outer membrane are believed to provide a channel for polymer export; Wzc is an inner membrane tyrosine autokinase and Wzb is its cognate phosphatase. This study was performed to determine whether the Wza, Wzb, and Wzc proteins for colanic acid expression in E. coli K-12 could function in the E. coli K30 prototype group 1 capsule system. When expressed together, colanic acid Wza, Wzb, and Wzc could complement a wza-wzb-wzc defect in E. coli K30, suggesting conservation in their collective function in Wzy-dependent CPS and EPS systems. Expressed individually, colanic acid Wza and Wzb could also function in K30 CPS expression. In contrast, the structural requirements for Wzc function were more stringent because colanic acid Wzc could restore translocation of K30 CPS to the cell surface only when expressed with its cognate Wza protein. Chimeric colanic acid-K30 Wzc proteins were constructed to further study this interaction. These proteins could restore K30 biosynthesis but were unable to couple synthesis to export. The chimeric protein comprising the periplasmic domain of colanic acid Wzc was functional for effective K30 CPS surface expression only when coexpressed with colanic acid Wza. These data highlight the importance of Wza-Wzc interactions in group 1 CPS assembly.

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