The rfaE gene from Escherichia coli encodes a bifunctional protein involved in biosynthesis of the lipopolysaccharide core precursor ADP-L-glycero-D-manno-heptose

M A Valvano, C L Marolda, M Bittner, M Glaskin-Clay, T L Simon, J D Klena

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50 Citations (Scopus)


The intermediate steps in the biosynthesis of the ADP-L-glycero-D-manno-heptose precursor of inner core lipopolysaccharide (LPS) are not yet elucidated. We isolated a mini-Tn10 insertion that confers a heptoseless LPS phenotype in the chromosome of Escherichia coli K-12. The mutation was in a gene homologous to the previously reported rfaE gene from Haemophilus influenzae. The E. coli rfaE gene was cloned into an expression vector, and an in vitro transcription-translation experiment revealed a polypeptide of approximately 55 kDa in mass. Comparisons of the predicted amino acid sequence with other proteins in the database showed the presence of two clearly separate domains. Domain I (amino acids 1 to 318) shared structural features with members of the ribokinase family, while Domain II (amino acids 344 to 477) had conserved features of the cytidylyltransferase superfamily that includes the aut gene product of Ralstonia eutrophus. Each domain was expressed individually, demonstrating that only Domain I could complement the rfaE::Tn10 mutation in E. coli, as well as the rfaE543 mutation of Salmonella enterica SL1102. DNA sequencing of the rfaE543 gene revealed that Domain I had one amino acid substitution and a 12-bp in-frame deletion resulting in the loss of four amino acids, while Domain II remained intact. We also demonstrated that the aut::Tn5 mutation in R. eutrophus is associated with heptoseless LPS, and this phenotype was restored following the introduction of a plasmid expressing the E. coli Domain II. Thus, both domains of rfaE are functionally different and genetically separable confirming that the encoded protein is bifunctional. We propose that Domain I is involved in the synthesis of D-glycero-D-manno-heptose 1-phosphate, whereas Domain II catalyzes the ADP transfer to form ADP-D-glycero-D-manno-heptose.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-97
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Bacteriology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Immunology


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