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Journal or Book Title

Journal of Lipid Research


Mycobacteria share an unusually complex, multilayered cell envelope, which contributes to adaptation to changing environments. The plasma membrane is the deepest layer of the cell envelope and acts as the final permeability barrier against outside molecules. There is an obvious need to maintain the plasma membrane integrity, but the adaptive responses of the plasma membrane to stress exposure remain poorly understood. Using chemical treatment and heat stress to fluidize the membrane, we show here that phosphatidylinositol (PI)-anchored plasma membrane glycolipids known as PI mannosides (PIMs) are rapidly remodeled upon membrane fluidization in Mycobacterium smegmatis. Without membrane stress, PIMs are predominantly in a triacylated form: two acyl chains of the PI moiety plus one acyl chain modified at one of the mannose residues. Upon membrane fluidization, we determined the fourth fatty acid is added to the inositol moiety of PIMs, making them tetra-acylated variants. Additionally, we show that PIM inositol acylation is a rapid response independent of de novo protein synthesis, representing one of the fastest mass conversions of lipid molecules found in nature. Strikingly, we found that M. smegmatis is more resistant to the bactericidal effect of a cationic detergent after benzyl alcohol pre-exposure. We further demonstrate that fluidization-induced PIM inositol acylation is conserved in pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium abscessus. Our results demonstrate that mycobacteria possess a mechanism to sense plasma membrane fluidity change. We suggest that inositol acylation of PIMs is a novel membrane stress response that enables mycobacterial cells to resist membrane fluidization.









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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.