Structures of aminoarabinose transferase ArnT suggest a molecular basis for lipid A glycosylation

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Science  05 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6273, pp. 608-612
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1172

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A bacterial defense mechanism

Polymyxins are antibiotics that disrupt the bacterial cell membrane and are used to treat multidrug-resistant infections. A bacterial enzyme called ArnT can mediate resistance to polymyxins by transferring a sugar group from a lipid carrier to lipid A, a component of the bacterial outer membrane. Petrou et al. described structures of ArnT alone and in complex with a lipid carrier and identified a cavity where lipid A probably binds. Insights into the enzyme mechanism could be exploited to design drugs that combat polymyxin resistance.

Science, this issue p. 608


Polymyxins are antibiotics used in the last line of defense to combat multidrug-resistant infections by Gram-negative bacteria. Polymyxin resistance arises through charge modification of the bacterial outer membrane with the attachment of the cationic sugar 4-amino-4-deoxy-l-arabinose to lipid A, a reaction catalyzed by the integral membrane lipid-to-lipid glycosyltransferase 4-amino-4-deoxy-l-arabinose transferase (ArnT). Here, we report crystal structures of ArnT from Cupriavidus metallidurans, alone and in complex with the lipid carrier undecaprenyl phosphate, at 2.8 and 3.2 angstrom resolution, respectively. The structures show cavities for both lipidic substrates, which converge at the active site. A structural rearrangement occurs on undecaprenyl phosphate binding, which stabilizes the active site and likely allows lipid A binding. Functional mutagenesis experiments based on these structures suggest a mechanistic model for ArnT family enzymes.

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