Lipid A Phosphoethanolamine Transferase: Regulation, Structure and Immune Response

J Mol Biol. 2020 Aug 21;432(18):5184-5196. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2020.04.022. Epub 2020 Apr 27.


A wide variety of antibiotics are targeted to the bacterial membrane due to its unique arrangement and composition relative to the host mammalian membranes. By modification of their membranes, some gram-negative pathogens resist the action of antibiotics. Lipid A phosphoethanolamine transferase (EptA) is an intramembrane enzyme that modifies the lipid A portion of lipopolysaccharide/lipooligosaccharide by the addition of phosphoethanolamine. This modification reduces the overall net-negative charge of the outer membrane of some gram-negative bacteria, conferring resistance to polymyxin. This resistance mechanism has resulted in a global public health issue due to the increased use of polymyxin as last-resort antibiotic treatments against multi-drug-resistant pathogens. Studies show that, without EptA, pathogenic bacteria become more sensitive to polymyxin and to clearance by the host immune system, suggesting the importance of this target enzyme for the development of novel therapeutic agents. In this review, EptA will be discussed comprehensively. Specifically, this review will cover the regulation of eptA expression by the two component systems PmrA/PmrB and PhoP/PhoQ, the site of modification on lipid A, the structure and catalytic mechanism of EptA in comparison to MCR-1 and Escherichia coli alkaline phosphatase, and the host immune system's response to lipid A modification by EptA. The overarching aim of this review is to provide a comprehensive overview of polymyxin resistance mediated by EptA.

Keywords: EptA; antibiotic resistance; immune response; lipid A modification; two-component systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Ethanolaminephosphotransferase / chemistry*
  • Ethanolaminephosphotransferase / genetics
  • Ethanolaminephosphotransferase / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipid A / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation
  • Polymyxins
  • Protein Conformation


  • Lipid A
  • Polymyxins
  • Ethanolaminephosphotransferase
  • Alkaline Phosphatase