Reduced lipopolysaccharide phosphorylation in Escherichia coli lowers the elevated ori/ter ratio in seqA mutants


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The seqA defect in Escherichia coli increases the ori/ter ratio and causes chromosomal fragmentation, making seqA mutants dependent on recombinational repair (the seqA recA colethality). To understand the nature of this chromosomal fragmentation, we characterized ΔseqA mutants and isolated suppressors of the ΔseqA recA lethality. We demonstrate that our ΔseqA alleles have normal function of the downstream pgm gene and normal ratios of the major phospholipids in the membranes, but increased surface lipopolysaccharide (LPS) phosphorylation. The predominant class of ΔseqA recA suppressors disrupts the rfaQGP genes, reducing phosphorylation of the inner core region of LPS. The rfaQGP suppressors also reduce the elevated ori/ter ratio of the ΔseqA mutants but, unexpectedly, the suppressed mutants still exhibit the high levels of chromosomal fragmentation and SOS induction, characteristic of the ΔseqA mutants. We also found that colethality of rfaP with defects in the production of acidic phospholipids is suppressed by alternative initiation of chromosomal replication, suggesting that LPS phosphorylation stimulates replication initiation. The rfaQGP suppression of the seqA recA lethality provides genetic support for the surprising physical evidence that the oriC DNA forms complexes with the outer membrane.