Enterobacterial Common Antigen: Synthesis and Function of an Enigmatic Molecule. Academic Article uri icon


  • The outer membrane (OM) of Gram-negative bacteria poses a barrier to antibiotic entry due to its high impermeability. Thus, there is an urgent need to study the function and biogenesis of the OM. In Enterobacterales, an order of bacteria with many pathogenic members, one of the components of the OM is enterobacterial common antigen (ECA). We have known of the presence of ECA on the cell surface of Enterobacterales for many years, but its properties have only more recently begun to be unraveled. ECA is a carbohydrate antigen built of repeating units of three amino sugars, the structure of which is conserved throughout Enterobacterales. There are three forms of ECA, two of which (ECAPG and ECALPS) are located on the cell surface, while one (ECACYC) is located in the periplasm. Awareness of the importance of ECA has increased due to studies of its function that show it plays a vital role in bacterial physiology and interaction with the environment. Here, we review the discovery of ECA, the pathways for the biosynthesis of ECA, and the interactions of its various forms. In addition, we consider the role of ECA in the host immune response, as well as its potential roles in host-pathogen interaction. Furthermore, we explore recent work that offers insights into the cellular function of ECA. This review provides a glimpse of the biological significance of this enigmatic molecule.

published proceedings

  • mBio

altmetric score

  • 14.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Rai, A. K., & Mitchell, A. M.

citation count

  • 37

complete list of authors

  • Rai, Ashutosh K||Mitchell, Angela M

editor list (cited editors)

  • Garsin, D. A.

published in