The opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes chronic biofilm infections in cystic fibrosis patients. During colonization of the lung, P. aeruginosa converts to a mucoid phenotype characterized by overproduction of the exopolysaccharide alginate. Here we show that AlgK, a protein essential for production of high molecular weight alginate, is an outer membrane lipoprotein that contributes to the correct localization of the porin AlgE. Our 2.5 A structure shows AlgK is composed of 9.5 tetratricopeptide-like repeats, and three putative sites of protein-protein interaction have been identified. Bioinformatics analysis suggests that BcsA, PgaA, and PelB, involved in the production and export of cellulose, poly-beta-1,6-N-Acetyl-D-glucosamine, and Pel exopolysaccharide, respectively, share the same topology as AlgK/E. Together, our data suggest that AlgK plays a role in the assembly of the alginate biosynthetic complex and represents the periplasmic component of a new type of outer membrane secretin that differs from canonical bacterial capsular polysaccharide secretion systems.
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