A rapid, small-scale procedure for the structural characterization of lipid A applied to Citrobacter and Bordetella strains: discovery of a new structural element

J Lipid Res. 2007 Nov;48(11):2419-27. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M700193-JLR200. Epub 2007 Aug 16.


Endotoxins [lipopolysaccharides (LPSs)] are part of the outer cell membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. Their biological activities are associated mainly with the lipid component (lipid A) and even more specifically with discrete aspects of their fine structure. The need for a rapid and small-scale analysis of lipid A motivated us to develop a procedure that combines direct isolation of lipids A from bacterial cells with sequential release of their ester-linked fatty acids by a mild alkali treatment followed by MALDI-MS analysis. This method avoids the multiple-step LPS extraction procedure and lipid A isolation. The whole process can be performed in a working day and applied to lyophilized bacterial samples as small as 1 mg. We illustrate the method by applying it to the analysis of lipids A of three species of Citrobacter that were found to be identical. On the other hand, when applied to two batches of Bordetella bronchiseptica strain 4650, it highlighted the presence, in one of them, of hitherto unreported hexosamine residues substituting the lipid A phosphate groups, possibly a new camouflage opportunity to escape a host defense system.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriological Techniques / methods
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica / chemistry*
  • Citrobacter / chemistry*
  • Lipid A / chemistry*
  • Lipid A / isolation & purification
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization


  • Lipid A