Structural and Functional Characterization of O-Antigen Translocation and Polymerization in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1
Heteropolymeric O antigen (O-Ag)-capped lipopolysaccharide is the principal constituent of the Gram-negative bacterial cell surface. It is assembled via the integral inner membrane (IM) Wzx/Wzy-dependent pathway. In Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Wzx translocates lipid-linked anionic O-Ag subunits from the cytoplasmic to the periplasmic leaflets of the IM, where Wzy polymerizes the subunits to lengths regulated by Wzz1/2. The Wzx and Wzy IM topologies were mapped using random C-terminal-truncation fusions to PhoALacZα, which displays PhoA/LacZ activity dependent upon its subcellular localization. Twelve transmembrane segments (TMS) containing charged residues were identified for Wzx. Fourteen TMS, two sizeable cytoplasmic loops (CL), and two large periplasmic loops (PL3 and PL5 of comparable size) were characterized for Wzy. Despite Wzy PL3–PL5 sequence homology, these loops were distinguished by respective cationic and anionic charge properties. Site-directed mutagenesis identified functionally-essential Arg residues in both loops. These results led to the proposition of a “catch-and-release” mechanism for Wzy function. The abovementioned Arg residues and intra-Wzy PL3–PL5 sequence homology were conserved among phylogenetically diverse Wzy homologues, indicating widespread potential for the proposed mechanism. Unexpectedly, Wzy CL6 mutations disrupted Wzz1-mediated regulation of shorter O-Ag chains, providing the first evidence for direct Wzy–Wzz interaction. Mutagenesis studies identified functionally-important charged and aromatic TMS residues localized to either the interior vestibule or TMS bundles in a 3D homology model constructed for Wzx. Substrate-binding or energy-coupling roles were proposed for these residues, respectively. The Wzx interior was found to be cationic, consistent with translocation of anionic O-Ag subunits. To test these hypotheses, Wzx was overexpressed, purified, and reconstituted in proteoliposomes loaded with I−. Common transport coupling ions were introduced to “open” the protein and allow detection of I− flux via reconstituted Wzx. Extraliposomal changes in H+ induced I− flux, while Na+ addition had no effect, suggesting H+-dependent Wzx gating. Putative energy-coupling residue mutants demonstrated defective H+-dependent halide flux. Wzx also mediated H+ uptake as detected through fluorescence shifts from proteoliposomes loaded with pH-sensitive dye. Consequently, Wzx was proposed to function via H+-coupled antiport. In summary, this research has contributed structural and functional knowledge leading to novel mechanistic understandings for O-Ag biosynthesis in bacteria.