When 10 Escherichia coli mutant strains with defects in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) core biosynthesis were grown on agar medium at 30°C, four of them, the ΔwaaF, ΔwaaG, ΔwaaP, and ΔwaaB strains, formed mucoid colonies, while the other six, the ΔwaaU, ΔwaaR, ΔwaaO, ΔwaaC, ΔwaaQ, and ΔwaaY strains, did not. Using light microscopy with tannin mordant staining, the presence of exopolysaccharide around the cells of the mutants that formed mucoid colonies could be discerned. The ΔwaaF mutant produced the largest amounts of exopolysaccharide, regardless of whether it was grown on agar or in liquid medium. The exopolysaccharide was isolated from the liquid growth medium of ΔwaaF cells, hydrolyzed, and analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography with an ion-exchange column, and the results indicated that the exopolysaccharide was consistent with colanic acid. When the key genes related to the biosynthesis of colanic acid, i.e., wza, wzb, wzc, and wcaA, were deleted in the ΔwaaF background, the exopolysaccharide could not be produced any more, further confirming that it was colanic acid. Colanic acid could not be produced in strains in which rcsA, rcsB, rcsD, or rcsF was deleted in the ΔwaaF background, but a reduced level of colanic acid production was detected when the rcsC gene was deleted, suggesting that a change of lipopolysaccharide structure in ΔwaaF cells might be sensed by the RcsCDB phosphorelay system, leading to the production of colanic acid. The results demonstrate that E. coli cells can activate colanic acid production through the RcsCDB phosphorelay system in response to a structural deficiency of lipopolysaccharide.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology