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Another brick in the wall: a rhamnan polysaccharide trapped inside peptidoglycan of Lactococcus lactis

Abstract : Polysaccharides are ubiquitous components of the Gram-positive bacterial cell wall. In Lactococcus lactis, a polysaccharide pellicle (PSP) forms a layer at the cell surface. The PSP structure varies among lactococcal strains; in L. lactis MG1363, the PSP is composed of repeating hexasaccharide phosphate units. Here, we report the presence of an additional neutral polysaccharide in L. lactis MG1363 that is a rhamnan composed of alpha-L-Rha trisaccharide repeating units. This rhamnan is still present in mutants devoid of the PSP, indicating that its synthesis can occur independently of PSP synthesis. High-resolution magic-angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (HR-MAS NMR) analysis of whole bacterial cells identified a PSP at the surface of wild-type cells. In contrast, rhamnan was detected only at the surface of PSP-negative mutant cells, indicating that rhamnan is located underneath the surface-exposed PSP and is trapped inside peptidoglycan. The genetic determinants of rhamnan biosynthesis appear to be within the same genetic locus that encodes the PSP biosynthetic machinery, except the gene tagO encoding the initiating glycosyltransferase. We present a model of rhamnan biosynthesis based on an ABC transporter-dependent pathway. Conditional mutants producing reduced amounts of rhamnan exhibit strong morphological defects and impaired division, indicating that rhamnan is essential for normal growth and division. Finally, a mutation leading to reduced expression of lcpA, encoding a protein of the LytR-CpsA-Psr (LCP) family, was shown to severely affect cell wall structure. In lcpA mutant cells, in contrast to wild-type cells, rhamnan was detected by HR-MAS NMR, suggesting that LcpA participates in the attachment of rhamnan to peptidoglycan. IMPORTANCE In the cell wall of Gram-positive bacteria, the peptidoglycan sacculus is considered the major structural component, maintaining cell shape and integrity. It is decorated with other glycopolymers, including polysaccharides, the roles of which are not fully elucidated. In the ovococcus Lactococcus lactis, a polysaccharide with a different structure between strains forms a layer at the bacterial surface and acts as the receptor for various bacteriophages that typically exhibit a narrow host range. The present report describes the identification of a novel polysaccharide in the L. lactis cell wall, a rhamnan that is trapped inside the peptidoglycan and covalently bound to it. We propose a model of rhamnan synthesis based on an ABC transporter-dependent pathway. Rhamnan appears as a conserved component of the lactococcal cell wall playing an essential role in growth and division, thus highlighting the importance of polysaccharides in the cell wall integrity of Gram-positive ovococci.
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Irina Sadovskaya, Evgeny Vinogradov, Pascal Courtin, Julija Armalyte, Mickael Meyrand, et al.. Another brick in the wall: a rhamnan polysaccharide trapped inside peptidoglycan of Lactococcus lactis. mBio, American Society for Microbiology, 2017, 8 (5), pp.1-16. ⟨10.1128/mBio.01303-17⟩. ⟨hal-02624504⟩

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