Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is the major component of the outer leaflet of the outer membrane (OM) of Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium and many other important pathogens. LPS, also referred to as endotoxin, is essential for survival in this large class of bacteria and serves as a first line of defense against hostile environments encountered during host infection. Given the essential role of LPS in the survival of Gram-negative bacteria - i.e., the bacterial cells die if any step o LPS transport does not occur - and the unique cell surface it creates, a detailed understanding of the proteins and mechanisms involved in LPS synthesis and transport will be the foundation on which to develop novel antibiotics against these promising new drug targets. Many of the proteins involved in LPS transport have been identified through recent genetics studies, suggesting that a set of seven inner membrane (IM), periplasmic, and OM proteins (named LptA, LptB, LptC, LptD, LptE, LptF, and LptG) are directly involved in moving LPS from the IM to the OM. However, the mechanism of how this group of proteins transports LPS to the OM is yet unknown. One of the most striking questions about this process is how the hydrophobic domain of LPS crosses the periplasm. Therefore, the proposed studies will focus on how the periplasmic protein LptA receives LPS from the IM-associated protein LptC, how LptA protects the hydrophobic acyl chains of LPS as it crosses the periplasm, and how LptA delivers LPS to LptDE at the OM. The successful completion of the proposed studies will include the development of a novel functional assessment tool for LptA, the creation of a comprehensive library of in vivo growth assay results to identify LptA amino acids critical for its structure or function, the identification of the specific LptA sites and conformational changes involved in LPS binding, and the characterization of the interactions between LptA and its binding partners LptC, LptDE, and LPS. The results of the novel genetic screenings, the laser light scattering analyses, the innovative electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy studies, and the isothermal titration calorimetry measurements will provide detailed insights into the mechanism of LPS transport across the periplasm of Gram-negative bacteria. This unique knowledge will greatly enhance our growing understanding of LPS transport in bacteria and set the stage for future studies on the other Lpt proteins of unknown structure and function.
Endotoxin, or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), from important disease-causing bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa produces severe septic shock in humans and can quickly lead to inflammatory disease and/or death. Endotoxin is also required for the survival of these bacteria, thus the proteins and interactions involved in its transport within the bacterium are exciting potential new targets for novel antibiotics. The aim of this project is to obtain a detailed understanding of how the endotoxin-transport protein, LptA, transports endotoxin within the cell as a foundation for the future development of inventive antibiotics against pathogenic bacteria.