Heteropolymeric B-band O-antigen (O-Ag) biosynthesis in Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1 follows the Wzy-dependent pathway, beginning with translocation of undecaprenyl pyrophosphate-linked anionic O-Ag subunits (O units) from the inner to the outer leaflets of the inner membrane (IM). This translocation is mediated by the integral IM flippase Wzx. Through experimentally based and unbiased topological mapping, our group previously observed that Wzx possesses many charged and aromatic amino acid residues within its 12 transmembrane segments (TMS). Herein, site-directed mutagenesis targeting 102 residues was carried out on the TMS and loops of Wzx, followed by assessment of each construct's ability to restore B-band O-Ag production, identifying eight residues important for flippase function. The importance of various charged and aromatic residues was highlighted, predominantly within the TMS of the protein, revealing functional 'hotspots' within the flippase, particularly within TMS2 and TMS8. Construction of a tertiary structure homology model for Wzx indicated that TMS2 and TMS8 line a central cationic lumen. This is the first report to describe a charged flippase lumen for mediating anionic O-unit translocation across the hydrophobic IM.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.