ElyC and Cyclic Enterobacterial Common Antigen Regulate Synthesis of Phosphoglyceride-Linked Enterobacterial Common Antigen. Academic Article uri icon


  • The Gram-negative cell envelope is a complex structure delineating the cell from its environment. Recently, we found that enterobacterial common antigen (ECA) plays a role maintaining the outer membrane (OM) permeability barrier, which excludes toxic molecules including many antibiotics. ECA is a conserved carbohydrate found throughout Enterobacterales (e.g., Salmonella, Klebsiella, and Yersinia). There are two OM forms of ECA (phosphoglyceride-linked ECAPG and lipopolysaccharide-linked ECALPS) and one periplasmic form of ECA (cyclic ECACYC). ECAPG, found in the outer leaflet of the OM, consists of a linear ECA oligomer attached to phosphoglyceride through a phosphodiester linkage. The process through which ECAPG is produced from polymerized ECA is unknown. Therefore, we set out to identify genes interacting genetically with ECAPG biosynthesis in Escherichia coli K-12 using the competition between ECA and peptidoglycan biosynthesis. Through transposon-directed insertion sequencing, we identified an interaction between elyC and ECAPG biosynthesis. ElyC is an inner membrane protein previously shown to alter peptidoglycan biosynthesis rates. We found elyC was lethal specifically in strains producing ECAPG without other ECA forms, suggesting ECAPG biosynthesis impairment or dysregulation. Further characterization suggested ElyC inhibits ECAPG synthesis in a posttranscriptional manner. Moreover, the full impact of ElyC on ECA levels requires the presence of ECACYC. Our data demonstrate ECACYC can regulate ECAPG synthesis in strains wild type for elyC. Overall, our data demonstrate ElyC and ECACYC act in a novel pathway that regulates the production of ECAPG, supporting a model in which ElyC provides feedback regulation of ECAPG production based on the periplasmic levels of ECACYC. IMPORTANCE Enterobacterial common antigen (ECA) is a conserved polysaccharide present on the surface of the outer membrane (OM) and in the periplasm of the many pathogenic bacteria belonging to Enterobacterales, including Klebsiella pneumoniae, Salmonella enterica, and Yersinia pestis. As the OM is a permeability barrier that excludes many antibiotics, synthesis pathways for OM molecules are promising targets for antimicrobial discovery. Here, we elucidated, in E. coli K-12, a new pathway for the regulation of biosynthesis of one cell surface form of ECA, ECAPG. In this pathway, an inner membrane protein, ElyC, and the periplasmic form of ECA, ECACYC, genetically interact to inhibit the synthesis of ECAPG, potentially through feedback regulation based on ECACYC levels. This is the first insight into the pathway responsible for synthesis of ECAPG and represents a potential target for weakening the OM permeability barrier. Furthermore, this pathway provides a tool for experimental manipulation of ECAPG levels.

published proceedings

  • mBio

altmetric score

  • 10.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Rai, A. K., Carr, J. F., Bautista, D. E., Wang, W., & Mitchell, A. M.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Rai, Ashutosh K||Carr, Joseph F||Bautista, David E||Wang, Wei||Mitchell, Angela M

editor list (cited editors)

  • Trent, M. S.

publication date

  • December 2021

published in