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Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Biomedical Sciences

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

M. Stephen Trent

Committee Members

Antonio E. Rusinol, Jane E. Raulston, Mitchell E. Robinson, Prisicilla B. Wyrick


Modification of the lipid A domain of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is important for the pathogenesis and virulence of various Gram-negative bacteria. The major lipid A species of Helicobacter pylori is significantly different from that of Escherichia coli. H. pylori lipid A contains fewer acyl chains and phosphate groups with only one Kdo sugar attached to the disaccharide backbone. However, H. pylori produces a minor lipid A species that resembles E. coli lipid A, suggesting that the major lipid A species results from the action of specific modifying enzymes. This work describes two enzymes, a lipid A phosphatase and a phosphoethanolamine (pEtN) transferase, involved in modifying the 1-position of H. pylori lipid A. H. pylori lipid A contains a pEtN unit directly linked to the 1-position of the disaccharide backbone. This is in contrast to the pEtN units found in other pathogens, which are attached to the lipid A phosphate group to form a pyrophosphate linkage. Using in-vitro assay systems, we demonstrate that the modification of the 1-position of H. pylori lipid A is a two-step process involving the removal of the 1-phosphate group by LpxEHP followed by the addition of a pEtN residue catalyzed by EptAHP. As compared to wild-type H. pylori, lpxEHP mutants are extremely sensitive to the cationic peptide polymyxin, thus, demonstrating the importance of modifying the 1-position of lipid A. Furthermore, this work describes another enzyme, YeiU (renamed LpxT), which specifically utilizes the carrier lipid undecaprenyl pyrophsphate (C55-PP) to modify the 1-position of E. coli lipid A. Typically, E. coli lipid A is a hexa-acylated disaccharide of glucosamine in which monophosphate groups are attached at positions 1 and 4'; however, a small fraction contains a diphosphate moiety at the 1-position (lipid A 1-diphosphate). 32P-labeled lipid A obtained from lpxT deficient mutants produces only lipid A, and complementation with a plasmid expressing LpxT restores lipid A 1-diphosphate formation. Inhibition of lipid A 1-diphosphate synthesis was demonstrated by sequestering C55-PP with the cyclic polypeptide antibiotic bacitracin. In conclusion, this work describes two novel pathways for lipid A modification at the 1-position in Gram-negative bacteria.

Document Type

Dissertation - restricted


Copyright by the authors.