• O-antigen processing;
  • polymerization;
  • chain-length determination;
  • modality


Lipopolysaccharide is a major immunogenic structure for the pathogen Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, which contains the O-specific polysaccharide (OPS) that is presented on the cell surface. The OPS contains many repeats of the oligosaccharide O-unit and exhibits a preferred modal chain length that has been shown to be crucial for cell protection in Yersinia. It is well established that the Wzz protein determines the preferred chain length of the OPS, and in its absence, the polymerization of O units by the Wzy polymerase is uncontrolled. However, for Y. pseudotuberculosis, a wzz mutation has never been described. In this study, we examine the effect of Wzz loss in Y. pseudotuberculosis serotype O:2a and compare the lipopolysaccharide chain-length profile to that of Escherichia coli serotype O111. In the absence of Wzz, the lipopolysaccharides of the two species showed significant differences in Wzy polymerization. Yersinia pseudotuberculosis O:2a exhibited only OPS with very short chain lengths, which is atypical of wzz-mutant phenotypes that have been observed for other species. We hypothesise that the Wzy polymerase of Y. pseudotuberculosis O:2a has a unique default activity in the absence of the Wzz, revealing the requirement of Wzz to drive O-unit polymerization to greater lengths.