The pentaglycine bridges of Staphylococcus aureus peptidoglycan are essential for cell integrity

João M. Monteiro, Gonçalo Covas, Daniela Rausch, Sérgio R. Filipe, Tanja Schneider, Hans Georg Sahl, Mariana G. Pinho

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Abstract

Bacterial cells are surrounded by cell wall, whose main component is peptidoglycan (PG), a macromolecule that withstands the internal turgor of the cell. PG composition can vary considerably between species. The Gram-positive pathogen Staphylococcus aureus possesses highly crosslinked PG due to the presence of cross bridges containing five glycines, which are synthesised by the FemXAB protein family. FemX adds the first glycine of the cross bridge, while FemA and FemB add the second and the third, and the fourth and the fifth glycines, respectively. Of these, FemX was reported to be essential. To investigate the essentiality of FemAB, we constructed a conditional S. aureus mutant of the femAB operon. Depletion of femAB was lethal, with cells appearing as pseudomulticellular forms that eventually lyse due to extensive membrane rupture. This deleterious effect was mitigated by drastically increasing the osmolarity of the medium, indicating that pentaglycine crosslinks are required for S. aureus cells to withstand internal turgor. Despite the absence of canonical membrane targeting domains, FemA has been shown to localise at the membrane. To study its mechanism of localisation, we constructed mutants in key residues present in the putative transferase pocket and the α6 helix of FemA, possibly involved in tRNA binding. Mutations in the α6 helix led to a sharp decrease in protein activity in vivo and in vitro but did not impair correct membrane localisation, indicating that FemA activity is not required for localisation. Our data indicates that, contrarily to what was previously thought, S. aureus cells do not survive in the absence of a pentaglycine cross bridge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5010
JournalScientific Reports
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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