Expression cloning and periplasmic orientation of the Francisella novicida lipid A 4′-phosphatase LpxF

Xiaoyuan Wang, Sara C. McGrath, Robert J. Cotter, Christian R.H. Raetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Francisella tularensis and related intracellular pathogens synthesize lipid A molecules that differ from their Escherichia coli counterparts. Although a functional orthologue of lpxK, the gene encoding the lipid A 4′-kinase, is present in Francisella, no 4′-phosphate moiety is attached to Francisella lipid A. We now demonstrate that a membrane-bound phosphatase present in Francisella novicida U112 selectively removes the 4′-phosphate residue from tetra- and pentaacylated lipid Amolecules. A clone that expresses the F. novicida 4′-phosphatase was identified by assaying lysates of E. coli colonies, harboring members of an F. novicida genomic DNA library, for 4′-phosphatase activity. Sequencing of a 2.5-kb F. novicida DNA insert from an active clone located the structural gene for the 4′-phosphatase, designated lpxF. It encodes a protein of 222 amino acid residues with six predicted membrane-spanning segments. Rhizobium leguminosarum and Rhizobium etli contain functional lpxF orthologues, consistent with their lipid A structures. When F. novicida LpxF is expressed in an E. coli LpxM mutant, a strain that synthesizes pentaacylated lipid A, over 90% of the lipid A molecules are dephosphorylated at the 4′-position. Expression of LpxF in wild-type E. coli has no effect, because wild-type hexaacylated lipid A is not a substrate. However, newly synthesized lipid A is not dephosphorylated in LpxM mutants by LpxF when the MsbA flippase is inactivated, indicating that LpxF faces the outer surface of the inner membrane. The availability of the lpxF gene will facilitate re-engineering lipid A structures in diverse bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9321-9330
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 7 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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