Characterization of Lipid Transport Mutants that Overcome the Iron-Transport Defect in Escherichia coli
When limited for iron, Escherichia coli secretes a siderophore, enterobactin, to solubilize and intake extracellular Fe3+ by a TonB-dependent high-affinity pathway. Consequently, E. coli tonB mutants grow poorly on a medium limited for iron. Upon longer incubation, however, faster growing colonies emerge and overcome this growth defect. The work presented in this paper reports and characterizes these faster growing colonies (revertants) in an attempt to dissect the mechanism by which they overcome the TonB deficiency. Genomic analysis revealed mutations in yejM, a putative inner-to-outer membrane cardiolipin transporter, which are responsible for the faster growth phenotype in a tonB mutant background. Further characterization of the revertants revealed that they display hypersensitivity to vancomycin, a large antibiotic that is normally precluded from entering E. coli cells, and leaked periplasmic proteins into the culture supernatant, indicating a compromised outer membrane permeability barrier. All phenotypes were reversed by supplying the wild type copy of yejM on a plasmid, suggesting that yejM mutations are solely responsible for the observed phenotypes. In the absence of wild type tonB, however, the deletion of all known of cardiolipin synthase genes (clsABC) did not produce the phenotype similar to mutations in the yejM gene, suggesting the absence of cardiolipin from the outer membrane per se is not responsible for the increased outer membrane permeability. These data show that a defect in lipid biogenesis and transport can compromise outer membrane permeability barrier to allow siderophore intake and that YejM may have additional roles other than transporting cardiolipin.