Nearly a quarter of the Escherichia coli genome encodes for inner membrane proteins of which approximately a third have unassigned or poorly understood function. We had previously demonstrated that the synergy between the functional roles of the inner membrane-spanning YciB and the inner membrane lipoprotein DcrB, is essential in maintaining cell envelope integrity. In yciB dcrB cells, the abundant outer membrane lipoprotein, Lpp, mislocalizes to the inner membrane where it forms toxic linkages to peptidoglycan. Here, we report that the aberrant localization of Lpp in this double mutant is due to inefficient lipid modification at the first step in lipoprotein maturation. Both Cpx and Rcs signaling systems are upregulated in response to the envelope stress. The phosphatidylglycerol-pre-prolipoprotein diacylglyceryl transferase, Lgt, catalyzes the initial step in lipoprotein maturation. Our results suggest that the attenuation in Lgt-mediated transacylation in the double mutant is not a consequence of lowered phosphatidylglycerol levels. Instead, we posit that altered membrane fluidity, perhaps due to changes in lipid homeostasis, may lead to the impairment in Lgt function. Consistent with this idea, a dcrB null is not viable when grown at low temperatures, conditions which impact membrane fluidity. Like the yciB dcrB double mutant, dcrB null-mediated toxicity can be overcome in distinct ways - by increased expression of Lgt, deletion of lpp, or removal of Lpp-peptidoglycan linkages. The last of these events leads to elevated membrane vesiculation and lipid loss, which may, in turn, impact membrane homeostasis in the double mutant.Importance A distinguishing feature of Gram-negative bacteria is their double-membraned cell envelope which presents a formidable barrier against environmental stress. In E. coli, more than a quarter of the cellular proteins reside at the inner membrane but about a third of these proteins are functionally unassigned or their function is incompletely understood. Here, we show that the synthetic lethality underlying the inactivation of two inner membrane proteins, a small integral membrane protein YciB, and a lipoprotein, DcrB, results from the attenuation of the first step of lipoprotein maturation at the inner membrane. We propose that these two inner membrane proteins YciB and DcrB play a role in membrane homeostasis in E. coli and related bacteria.
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