YejM controls LpxC levels by regulating protease activity of the FtsH/YciM complex of Escherichia coli

Daniel Nguyen, Keilen Kelly, Nan Qiu, Rajeev Misra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


LpxC is a deacetylase that catalyzes the first committed step of lipid A biosynthesis in Escherichia coli. LpxC competes for a common precursor, R-3hydroxymyristoyl-UDP-GlcNAc, with FabZ, whose dehydratase activity catalyzes the first committed step of phospholipid biosynthesis. To maintain the optimum flow of the common precursor to these two competing pathways, the LpxC level is controlled by FtsH/YciM-mediated proteolysis. It is not known whether this complex or another protein senses the status of lipid A synthesis to control LpxC proteolysis. The work carried out in this study began with a novel mutation, yejM1163, which causes hypersensitivity to large antibiotics such as vancomycin and erythromycin. Isolates resistant to these antibiotics carried suppressor mutations in the ftsH and yciM genes. Western blot analysis showed a dramatically reduced LpxC level in the yejM1163 background, while the presence of ftsH or yciM suppressor mutations restored LpxC levels to different degrees. Based on these observations, it is proposed that YejM is a sensor of lipid A synthesis and controls LpxC levels by modulating the activity of the FtsH/YciM complex. The truncation of the periplasmic domain in the YejM1163 protein causes unregulated proteolysis of LpxC, thus diverting a greater pool of R-3-hydroxymyristoyl-UDP-GlcNAc toward phospholipid synthesis. This imbalance in lipid synthesis perturbs the outer membrane permeability barrier, causing hypersensitivity toward vancomycin and erythromycin. yejM1163 suppressor mutations in ftsH and yciM lower the proteolytic activity toward LpxC, thus restoring lipid homeostasis and the outer membrane permeability barrier. IMPORTANCE Lipid homeostasis is critical for proper envelope functions. The level of LpxC, which catalyzes the first committed step of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) synthesis, is controlled by an essential protease complex comprised of FtsH and YciM. Work carried out here suggests YejM, an essential envelope protein, plays a central role in sensing the state of LPS synthesis and controls LpxC levels by regulating the activity of FtsH/YciM. All four essential proteins are attractive targets of therapeutic development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00303-20
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Escherichia coli
  • FtsH protease
  • Lipid homeostasis
  • Lipopolysaccharide
  • LpxC
  • YciM
  • YejM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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