Zellner, Briana; Mengin-Lecreulx, Dominique; Tully, Brenden; Gunning, William T; Booth, Robert; Huntley, Jason F
Francisella tularensis is a Gram-negative, intracellular bacterium that causes the zoonotic disease tularemia. Intracellular pathogens, including F. tularensis, have evolved mechanisms to survive in the harsh environment of macrophages and neutrophils, where they are exposed to cell envelope-damaging molecules. The bacterial cell wall, primarily composed of peptidoglycan (PG), maintains cell morphology, structure, and membrane integrity. Intracellular Gram-negative bacteria protect themselves from macrophage and neutrophil killing by recycling and repairing damaged PG--a process that involves over 50 different PG synthesis and recycling enzymes. Here, we identified a PG recycling enzyme, L,D-carboxypeptidase A (LdcA), of F. tularensis that is responsible for converting PG tetrapeptide stems to tripeptide stems. Unlike E. coli LdcA and most other orthologs, F. tularensis LdcA does not localize to the cytoplasm and also exhibits L,D-endopeptidase activity, converting PG pentapeptide stems to tripeptide stems. Loss of F. tularensis LdcA led to altered cell morphology and membrane integrity, as well as attenuation in a mouse pulmonary infection model and in primary and immortalized macrophages. Finally, an F. tularensis ldcA mutant protected mice against virulent Type A F. tularensis SchuS4 pulmonary challenge.