The O-Antigen Flippase Wzk Can Substitute for MurJ in Peptidoglycan Synthesis in Helicobacter pylori and Escherichia coli.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PloS one, Volume 11, Issue 8, p.e0161587 (2016)


The peptidoglycan (PG) cell wall is an essential component of the cell envelope of most bacteria. Biogenesis of PG involves a lipid-linked disaccharide-pentapeptide intermediate called lipid II, which must be translocated across the cytoplasmic membrane after it is synthesized in the inner leaflet of this bilayer. Accordingly, it has been demonstrated that MurJ, the proposed lipid II flippase in Escherichia coli, is required for PG biogenesis, and thereby viability. In contrast, MurJ is not essential in Bacillus subtilis because this bacterium produces AmJ, an unrelated protein that is functionally redundant with MurJ. In this study, we investigated why MurJ is not essential in the prominent gastric pathogen, Helicobacter pylori. We found that in this bacterium, Wzk, the ABC (ATP-binding cassette) transporter that flips the lipid-linked O- or Lewis- antigen precursors across the inner membrane, is redundant with MurJ for cell viability. Heterologous expression of wzk in E. coli also suppresses the lethality caused by the loss of murJ. Furthermore, we show that this cross-species complementation is abolished when Wzk is inactivated by mutations that target a domain predicted to be required for ATPase activity. Our results suggest that Wzk can flip lipid II, implying that Wzk is the flippase with the most relaxed specificity for lipid-linked saccharides ever identified.