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Elongation factor P (EF-P) is a ubiquitous bacterial protein that is required for the synthesis of poly-proline motifs during translation. In Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica, the posttranslational β-lysylation of Lys34 by the PoxA protein is critical for EF-P activity. PoxA is absent from many bacterial species such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, prompting a search for alternative EF-P posttranslation modification pathways. Structural analyses of P. aeruginosa EF-P revealed the attachment of a single cyclic rhamnose moiety to an Arg residue at a position equivalent to that at which β-Lys is attached to E. coli EF-P. Analysis of the genomes of organisms that both lack poxA and encode an Arg32-containing EF-P revealed a highly conserved glycosyltransferase (EarP) encoded at a position adjacent to efp. EF-P proteins isolated from P. aeruginosa ΔearP, or from a ΔrmlC::acc1 strain deficient in dTDP-l-rhamnose biosynthesis, were unmodified. In vitro assays confirmed the ability of EarP to use dTDP-l-rhamnose as a substrate for the posttranslational glycosylation of EF-P. The role of rhamnosylated EF-P in translational control was investigated in P. aeruginosa using a Pro4-green fluorescent protein (Pro4GFP) in vivo reporter assay, and the fluorescence was significantly reduced in Δefp, ΔearP, and ΔrmlC::acc1 strains. ΔrmlC::acc1, ΔearP, and Δefp strains also displayed significant increases in their sensitivities to a range of antibiotics, including ertapenem, polymyxin B, cefotaxim, and piperacillin. Taken together, our findings indicate that posttranslational rhamnosylation of EF-P plays a key role in P. aeruginosa gene expression and survival.


This article was originally published in mBio, volume 6, in 2015.


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