Undecaprenyl phosphate (Und-P) is a universal lipid carrier of glycan biosynthetic intermediates for carbohydrate polymers that are exported to the bacterial cell envelope. Und-P arises from the dephosphorylation of undecaprenyl pyrophosphate (Und-PP) molecules produced by de novo synthesis and also from the recycling of released Und-PP after the transfer of the glycan component to other acceptor molecules. The latter reactions take place at the periplasmic side of the plasma membrane, while cytoplasmic enzymes catalyse the de novo synthesis. Four Und-PP pyrophosphatases were recently identified in Escherichia coli. One of these, UppP (formerly BacA), accounts for 75 % of the total cellular Und-PP pyrophosphatase activity and has been suggested to participate in the Und-P de novo synthesis pathway. Unlike UppP, the other three pyrophosphatases (YbjG, YeiU and PgpB) have a typical acid phosphatase motif also found in eukaryotic dolichyl-pyrophosphate-recycling pyrophosphatases. This study shows that double and triple deletion mutants in the genes uppP and ybjG, and uppP, ybjG and yeiU, respectively, are supersensitive to the Und-P de novo biosynthesis inhibitor fosmidomycin. In contrast, single or combined deletions including pgpB have no effect on fosmidomycin supersensitivity. Experimental evidence is also presented that the acid phosphatase motifs of YbjG and YeiU face the periplasmic space. Furthermore, the quadruple deletion mutant DeltauppP-DeltaybjG-DeltayeiU-DeltawaaL has a growth defect and abnormal cell morphology, suggesting that accumulation of unprocessed Und-PP-linked O antigen polysaccharides is toxic for these cells. Together, the results support the notion that YbjG, and to a lesser extent YeiU, exert their enzymic activity on the periplasmic side of the plasma membrane and are implicated in the recycling of periplasmic Und-PP molecules.
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