Inefficient translocation of a truncated O unit by a Salmonella Wzx affects both O-antigen production and cell growth

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2015 May;362(9):fnv053. doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnv053. Epub 2015 Apr 2.


Bacterial Wzx flippases translocate (flip) short oligosaccharide repeat units (O units) across the inner membrane into the periplasm, which is a critical step in the assembly of many O antigens, capsules and other surface polysaccharides. There is enormous diversity in O antigens and capsules in particular, even within species. Wzx proteins are similarly diverse, but it has been widely accepted that they have significant specificity only for the first sugar of an O unit. In this study, we analysed the Wzx from the Salmonella enterica group C2 O antigen gene cluster, which is a unique and divergent member of a set of gene clusters that produce galactose-initiated O antigens. We demonstrate that this Wzx has a strong preference for the presence of an abequose side-branch, which manifests in a reduction of long-chain O antigen and a major growth defect. This contributes to a growing body of evidence that, contrary to earlier proposals, Wzx flippases commonly exhibit a strong preference for the structure of their native O unit.

Keywords: O unit; flippase; gene cluster; glycobiology; lipopolysaccharide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Membrane / genetics
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Multigene Family
  • O Antigens / biosynthesis*
  • O Antigens / chemistry
  • O Antigens / genetics*
  • Salmonella enterica / genetics*
  • Salmonella enterica / growth & development
  • Salmonella enterica / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • O Antigens