Structures of Pseudomonas aeruginosa LpxA Reveal the Basis for Its Substrate Selectivity

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In Gram-negative bacteria, the first step of lipid A biosynthesis is catalyzed by UDP-N-acetylglucosamine acyltransferase (LpxA) through the transfer of a R-3-hydroxyacyl chain from the acyl carrier protein (ACP) to the 3-hydroxyl group of UDP-GlcNAc. Previous studies suggest that LpxA is a critical determinant of the acyl chain length found in lipid A, which varies among species of bacteria. In Escherichia coli and Leptospira interrogans, LpxA prefers to incorporate longer R-3-hydroxyacyl chains (C14 and C12, respectively), whereas in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the enzyme is selective for R-3-hydroxydecanoyl, a 10-hydrocarbon long acyl chain. We now report three P. aeruginosa LpxA crystal structures: apo protein, substrate complex with UDP-GlcNAc, and product complex with UDP-3-O-(R-3-hydroxydecanoyl)-GlcNAc. A comparison between the apo form and complexes identifies key residues that position UDP-GlcNAc appropriately for catalysis and supports the role of catalytic His121 in activating the UDP-GlcNAc 3-hydroxyl group for nucleophilic attack during the reaction. The product-complex structure, for the first time, offers structural insights into how Met169 serves to constrain the length of the acyl chain and thus functions as the so-called hydrocarbon ruler. Furthermore, compared with ortholog LpxA structures, the purported oxyanion hole, formed by the backbone amide group of Gly139, displays a different conformation in P. aeruginosa LpxA, which suggests flexibility of this structural feature important for catalysis and the potential need for substrate-induced conformational change in catalysis. Taken together, the three structures provide valuable insights into P. aeruginosa LpxA catalysis and substrate specificity as well as templates for future inhibitor discovery.

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Biochemistry, v. 54, issue 38, p. 5937-5948