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Summary

Recent characterization of chlamydial genes encoding functional peptidoglycan (PG)-synthesis proteins suggests that the Chlamydiaceae possess the ability to synthesize PG yet biochemical evidence for the synthesis of PG has yet to be demonstrated. The presence of D-amino acids in PG is a hallmark of bacteria. Chlamydiaceae do not appear to encode amino acid racemases however, a D-alanyl-D-alanine (D-Ala-D-Ala) ligase homologue (Ddl) is encoded in the genome. Thus, we undertook a genetics-based approach to demonstrate and characterize the D-Ala-D-Ala ligase activity of chlamydial Ddl, a protein encoded as a fusion with MurC. The full-length murC-ddl fusion gene from Chlamydia trachomatis serovar L2 was cloned and placed under the control of the arabinose-inducible ara promoter and transformed into a D-Ala-D-Ala ligase auxotroph of Escherichia coli possessing deletions of both the ddlA and ddlB genes. Viability of the E. coliΔddlAΔddlB mutant in the absence of exogenous D-Ala-D-Ala dipeptide became dependent on the expression of the chlamydial murC-ddl thus demonstrating functional ligase activity. Domain mapping of the full-length fusion protein and site-directed mutagenesis of the MurC domain revealed that the structure of the full fusion protein but not MurC enzymatic activity was required for ligase activity in vivo. Recombinant MurC-Ddl exhibited substrate specificity for D-Ala. Chlamydia growth is inhibited by D-cycloserine (DCS) and in vitro analysis provided evidence for the chlamydial MurC-Ddl as the target for DCS sensitivity. In vivo sensitivity to DCS could be reversed by addition of exogenous D-Ala and D-Ala-D-Ala. Together, these findings further support our hypothesis that PG is synthesized by members of the Chlamydiaceae family and suggest that D-amino acids, specifically D-Ala, are present in chlamydial PG.