Phospholipase A1 modulates the cell envelope phospholipid content of brucella melitensis, contributing to polymyxin resistance and pathogenicity

Tobias Kerrinnes, Briana M. Young, Carlos Leon, Christelle M. Roux, Lisa Tran, Vidya L. Atluri, Maria G. Winter, Renee M Tsolis

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6 Scopus citations


A subset of bacterial pathogens, including the zoonotic Brucella species, are highly resistant against polymyxin antibiotics. Bacterial polymyxin resistance has been attributed primarily to the modification of lipopolysaccharide; however, it is unknown what additional mechanisms mediate high-level resistance against this class of drugs. This work identified a role for the Brucella melitensis gene bveA (BMEII0681), encoding a predicted esterase, in the resistance of B. melitensis to polymyxin B. Characterization of the enzymatic activity of BveA demonstrated that it is a phospholipase A1 with specificity for phosphatidylethanolamine (PE). Further, lipidomic analysis of B. melitensis revealed an excess of PE lipids in the bacterial membranes isolated from the bveA mutant. These results suggest that by lowering the PE content of the cell envelope, BveA increases the resistance of B. melitensis to polymyxin B. BveA was required for survival and replication of B. melitensis in macrophages and for persistent infection in mice. BveA family esterases are encoded in the genomes of the alphaproteobacterial species that coexist with the poly-myxin-producing bacteria in the rhizosphere, suggesting that maintenance of a low PE content in the bacterial cell envelope may be a shared persistence strategy for association with plant and mammalian hosts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6717-6724
Number of pages8
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology
  • Infectious Diseases

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