Identification of a gene required for the formation of lyso-ornithine lipid, an intermediate in the biosynthesis of ornithine-containing lipids

Mol Microbiol. 2004 Sep;53(6):1757-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04240.x.


Under phosphate-limiting conditions, some bacteria replace their membrane phospholipids by lipids not containing any phosphorus. One of these phosphorus-free lipids is an ornithine-containing lipid (OL) that is widespread among eubacteria. In earlier work, we had identified a gene (olsA) required for OL biosynthesis that probably encodes an O-acyltransferase using acyl-acyl carrier protein (acyl-AcpP) as an acyl donor and that converts lyso-ornithine lipid into OL. We now report on a second gene (olsB) required for OL biosynthesis that is needed for the incorporation of radiolabelled ornithine into OL. Overexpression of OlsB in an olsA-deficient mutant of Sinorhizobium (Rhizobium) meliloti leads to the transient accumulation of lyso-ornithine lipid, the biosynthetic intermediate of OL biosynthesis. Overexpression of OlsB in Escherichia coli is sufficient to cause the in vivo formation of lyso-ornithine lipid in this organism and is the cause for a 3-hydroxyacyl-AcpP-dependent acyltransferase activity forming lyso-ornithine lipid from ornithine. These results demonstrate that OlsB is required for the first step of OL biosynthesis, in which ornithine is N-acylated with a 3-hydroxy-fatty acyl residue in order to obtain lyso-ornithine lipid. OL formation in a wild-type S. meliloti is increased upon growth under phosphate-limiting conditions. Expression of OlsB from a broad host range vector leads to the constitutive formation of relatively high amounts of OL (12-14% of total membrane lipids) independently of whether strains are grown in the presence of low or high concentrations of phosphate, suggesting that in S. meliloti the formation of OlsB is usually limiting for the amount of OL formed in this organism. Open reading frames homologous to OlsA and OlsB were identified in many eubacteria and although in S. meliloti the olsB and olsA gene are 14 kb apart, in numerous other bacteria they form an operon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyl Carrier Protein / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Lipids / biosynthesis*
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Structure
  • Mutation
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Ornithine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ornithine / biosynthesis*
  • Ornithine / chemistry
  • Ornithine / metabolism*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / genetics*
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / metabolism*
  • Sinorhizobium meliloti / physiology


  • Acyl Carrier Protein
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Lipids
  • ornithine containing aminolipid
  • Ornithine