Abstract: Gram-negative bacteria have a unique cell envelope with a lipopolysaccharide-containing outer membrane that is tightly connected to a thin layer of peptidoglycan. The tight connection between the outer membrane and peptidoglycan is needed to maintain the outer membrane as an impermeable barrier for many toxic molecules and antibiotics. Enterobacteriaceae such as Escherichia coli covalently attach the abundant outer membrane-anchored lipoprotein Lpp (Braun’s lipoprotein) to tripeptides in peptidoglycan, mediated by the transpeptidases LdtA, LdtB, and LdtC. LdtD and LdtE are members of the same family of ld-transpeptidases but they catalyze a different reaction, the formation of 3-3 cross-links in the peptidoglycan. The function of the sixth homologue in E. coli, LdtF, remains unclear, although it has been shown to become essential in cells with inhibited lipopolysaccharide export to the outer membrane. We now show that LdtF hydrolyzes the Lpp-peptidoglycan linkage, detaching Lpp from peptidoglycan, and have renamed LdtF to peptidoglycan meso-diaminopimelic acid protein amidase A (DpaA). We show that the detachment of Lpp from peptidoglycan is beneficial for the cell under certain stress conditions and that the deletion of dpaA allows frequent transposon inactivation in the lapB (yciM) gene, whose product downregulates lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis. DpaA-like proteins have characteristic sequence motifs and are present in many Gram-negative bacteria, of which some have no Lpp, raising the possibility that DpaA has other substrates in these species. Overall, our data show that the Lpp-peptidoglycan linkage in E. coli is more dynamic than previously appreciated. IMPORTANCE Gram-negative bacteria have a complex cell envelope with two membranes and a periplasm containing the peptidoglycan layer. The outer membrane is firmly connected to the peptidoglycan by highly abundant proteins. The outer membrane-anchored Braun’s lipoprotein (Lpp) is the most abundant protein in E. coli, and about one-third of the Lpp molecules become covalently attached to tripeptides in peptidoglycan. The attachment of Lpp to peptidoglycan stabilizes the cell envelope and is crucial for the outer membrane to function as a permeability barrier for a range of toxic molecules and antibiotics. So far, the attachment of Lpp to peptidoglycan has been considered to be irreversible. We have now identified an amidase, DpaA, which is capable of detaching Lpp from peptidoglycan, and we show that the detachment of Lpp is important under certain stress conditions. DpaA-like proteins are present in many Gram-negative bacteria and may have different substrates in these species.
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